Sunday, June 24, 2012

Watercolor Ponies

The ringing of the alarm slowed penetrated my sleep-heavy mind. Despite the early hour I quickly climbed out of bed because I knew this was not a morning on which I had the luxury of pressing the snooze button, even at 3 AM. To make the flight on time, we didn't have the luxury of extra moments of sleep.

Usually I am the one getting ready to catch a flight. But today I would be staying home and my daughter would be the one taking wing. My job was simply to get her out of bed in time to travel with her aunt and uncle to the airport. This would be her first big trip apart from her mother and I. Was she ready? Perhaps more importantly, were we ready? Sure she had been off to summer camp a couple of times, but this time she would be traveling some legs of her journey completely on her own, navigating new airports, having to catch flights on time and connect with family friends at her destination who had graciously agreed to pick her up and deliver her to her aunt and uncle again (a complicated story, involving different flights and an international border.) She's quite experienced at international travel, but she's never really had to travel on her own. I admit to being a bit nervous. I'm pretty sure her mother was as well.

Despite our nervousness, I can safely say that both her mother and I are also delighted. We are delighted because we see our daughter growing more and more independent. The past couple years have been really rough ones for her for reasons that I shall not go into here. Last year she had to negotiate the adjustment to American culture (having lived most of her life outside of the country) at the same time as she had to learn the ways of American high school life. It took her some time, but she has thrived and flourished. Last summer we would have hesitated strongly about sending her off on her own, even if it were to visit family, because she was not at a place to undertake such a journey. This year she is. And for that we are very glad.

She'll turn sixteen this summer. She just got her driver's permit a couple weeks ago. (Unlike most teens, she has no eagerness to begin driving.) Sometimes I wonder how she reached this point. How did we reach this point? Surely I can't be old enough to have a 16-year-old daughter? Can we really be looking at her graduation from high school in two short years?

They tell you when you're a young parent that those childhood years pass quickly. You nod politely and acknowledge the truth of this statement, while not really comprehending it. Some days when they're young you wonder if they will ever grow up fast enough. Even when they hit their teens you sometimes wonder if they will ever grow up. But time rolls persistently onward and one day you find yourself with a 16-year-old who is heading out the door to travel without you. And the thought leaves you glad and sad at the same time. Being a parent is full of many such bittersweet moments.

Wayne Watson sang a song years ago entitle Watercolor Ponies that comes to mind at moments like these. Referring to the drawings made by children that decorate the walls or refrigerator doors of every parent, the chorus goes:

Baby what will we do, when it comes back to me and you?
They look a little less like like boys [girls] every day.
Oh the pleasure of watching the children growing
Is mixed with the bitter cup
Of knowing the watercolor ponies
Will one day ride away.

Travel well my beloved daughter. Enjoy yourself and know that you will be missed and loved every moment you are gone.

[Out of respect for my daughter's privacy I do not add any pictures of her to accompany today's post.]

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