It’s not easy for us—mothers of daughters. Almost from the time they take their first steps, we drill in them that they can be anything they want to be. We encourage them to be strong, willful, powerful, and tell them to dream big. Find their passion. Set lofty goals.
Then we send them on their way to focus on their dreams, and we find ourselves panicking beyond belief. What were we thinking? A myriad of mothering questions enter our minds. Will they be careful? Eat well? Get enough sleep? Will they know how to get around in a big city? Find a safe hotel in a small town?
For the rest of our lives we will wonder and worry if we’ve done our job: prepared them for the big world.
I dropped my daughter off at the airport at 4:40 this morning. She had spent a week at home before boarding a flight to Philly that would eventually lead her to Norfolk, New York City, and Baltimore for a two-week training period at a new job. After I was out of earshot, I realized I’d forgotten to tell her to write down the license plate of any cab she takes, hold her keys in her fingers to gouge out a mugger’s eyes, only drink from a container she opened herself, and never meet with anyone in her room.
I tried to reassure myself that she knew these cautionary ploys, but other questions surfaced. What if her luggage was lost? Was her phone charged? Did she have directions? Did she pack her toothbrush?
I’ve raised two strong women. Both educated beyond college, both successful, and both braver than I ever was. My oldest left her home town when she was 18 and, other than coming back for a few summers to work, really never came home. My youngest daughter, a special education teacher, announced fifteen months ago that she had landed a new job in a great school district—400 miles away. Her father and I moved her –all by herself—to a big city, and I cried all the way home.
It’s scary—this mothering business. Teaching our daughters to be strong is imperative, but sending them down the road is possibly the hardest job we will ever tackle. It goes against our grain. We become so used to caring for them that once it’s time for them to care for themselves, we are at odds with the world.
Yet it is a necessary evil—saying goodbye. I don’t think I realized until this morning that we really haven’t done our jobs until we can say goodbye.
So this morning, once again, I choked back those tears, told her good luck, kissed her goodbye and watched my strong, successful, thirty-one year old go off in the direction of her dreams.
It was happy and it was sad, but most definitely, it was a proud moment. I watched her walk confidently toward the baggage scanner in the bright lights of the airport. She never looked back. And just before she rounded that last corner and disappeared from my sight, I swear I saw the faded shadow of a My Little Pony etched on her back pack.
They’ll always be our little girls.
Cyndie Zahner is a freelance writer/editor and mother of Athletchic s Jessie and Jillian Zahner . Follower her @tweetyz on Twitter and athletchicz on Instagram.