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Passports and Parenting

Passports and Parenting

This glorious view was that of my daughters last week while they vacationed in Mexico with their dad. They sunk their toes into the sand, tasted their first virgin pina coladas, and zip lined away their fears of heights. I lived vicariously through them with their photos and sporadic text updates when they stopped in their rooms long enough to use wi-fi.

I jealously regarded the photo with so many mixed feelings it left me reeling. I tried to stay most focused on how genuinely happy I was that they were having this incredible experience. I pushed aside worry-wart wondering if they were being safe, if they were applying sunscreen every hour, if they were eating anything other than the platefuls of sweets they kept Snapchatting (yes, according to them this is a word). I struggled with the fear of them flying without me – watching and waiting the hours out while they were in-flight.

For any parent, watching your child travel away from you is an emotion-filled experience. Worry for their safety, pride for their independence, happiness for their adventure, sadness for there not being sameness in the experience – all cultivate the creation of a conflicted parent. For divorced parents, having your child travel away and without you may happen with more frequency. After all, it is a common clause in parenting plans that each parent is awarded two or more weeks per year of vacation time.

Several parents have asked how I deal with their travel. I was nervous when they got their first passports and I did not have them. An irrational and crazy thought popped into my head without warning – what if he took them and did not come back? Then I worried about how my Sophia would sleep in a strange place. When Anna mentioned that her dad said she could go to a teen disco I instantly felt nauseous and a little faint. I kept trouble shooting in my mind how fast I could get there if something terrible happened. And then, in the midst of my anxiety-filled (and let’s be honest – toxic) mind ramblings, I hit the surrender wall full force at 4 a.m. the morning my daughter texted me they were boarding their flight.

The truth was – there was nothing to be done. I reminded myself that I had trusted my former spouse enough to have children with him in the first place and I should probably trust him enough now to take them on a family vacation. It really was that simple. Hard to swallow a couple of times sure, but really just that simple.

I surrendered to my quiet house and made my mind stop. Instead I mapped out a list of things I could accomplish while they were gone, I excitedly got ready for a weekend trip with my best friend, and I may have binge-watched the new House of Cards season… So, if you too find yourself watching your children walking away from you toward an exciting adventure of their own, I encourage you to mind the worrying and move toward the surrender with what? Clarity, gratitude, ease? It is your choice to put yourself in a place that may be as peaceful as the ocean view my daughter enjoyed all on her own.

Angela Dunne