Last weekend, she was in Chicago. This weekend, she’s in Washington, D.C. I never would’ve guessed my 13-year-old daughter could be such a jet-setter.
As a parent, you want to do whatever you can to help your children’s plans come true. Sometimes that means letting them go, even if it’s off to a bigger city.
My wife and I have both lived in bigger cities, yet we settled on living in one of the smaller villages outside of Lima. We both prefer that small-town way of life, where people wave at you even if they’ve never spoken to you and you know other parents are watching out for your children. I enjoy the relative quiet on our property on the edge of town, with a farmer’s field behind us and only the occasional walker giving our dogs any reason to bark.
Our 13-year-old has always dreamed big dreams, though. She used to talk about wanting to be the president, even dressing up in the identifiable blue suit of a politician for a Halloween costume one year. She’s always talked about going to bigger places, first dreaming of attending Harvard outside Boston and now focusing on Loyola near Chicago.
I’ve always loved Chicago and its suburbs. That’s where my parents grew up before relocating to Ohio, via stops out West along the way. My grandparents all lived in the Chicago suburbs too. Many of my best childhood memories involved annual trips to see family there.
We’ve continued that tradition, trying to bring our kids into cities when time and finances permit. We think it’s important for them to see what’s out there and decide for themselves how big they want to dream.
We don’t want them to be fearful about big crowds, homeless people or people who don’t share our pasty-white skin complexion. We want them to see people as individuals, even if they’re more concentrated than they are here. We do try to teach them to be careful, never wandering too far from our pack and picking up on the signs of potentially dangerous people.
As such, we enjoyed a short family trip to Chicago last weekend, taking in some shopping for our always-growing girls and attending a Cubs baseball game. It did my heart good to see our 13-year-old and 12-year-old daughters confidently walking through the city, despite the assortment of clothing, hair and lifestyle choices you just don’t see in small-town Ohio. It made us realize we’ve taught them well.
That leads to the 13-year-old’s visit to Washington, D.C., this week. Like many eighth-graders do, her class visited the nation’s capital. She’s been there before, including a hilarious photo of her standing outside the gates of the White House with a house key, suggesting she was ready to move in there.
When we started talking about the trip, we asked which parent should accompany her on this visit. Her older sister brought her mother, but I’ve often felt closer to this daughter than her mother, given our shared love of snark and sports.
She surprised us by saying she didn’t want either of us to go, preferring to hang out with her friends the entire time. She acknowledged everything will change when she enters high school next year, and she wanted to have this lasting memory of her friend group together.
Like I said, sometimes it means letting them go. I dropped her off bright and early one morning last week, and I’m scheduled to pick her up when she returns.
I’m sure she’s fine in D.C. After all, it’s a chaperoned school trip. I’m just not so sure I am.
You want to give your children every opportunity to succeed and follow their dreams. In the back of your head, you hope they’ll choose your dream, to maintain close family connections and be part of each other’s daily lives when they grow up.
Instead, trips like this remind you they can choose to be apart from you instead.
We’ll have to pack as much into these next few years as we can to make sure she’ll be ready to go solo on her next big adventure.