In May, my daughter participated in her school’s eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. I learned so much from this adventure! No, I wasn’t a chaperone. I learned all of this by being at home while she was gone for four days. I learned all of this after crying like a baby driving home after seeing her board the bus for the airport. I learned this through our telephone conversations, our texting and the sharing after she got home. “Learned” is probably not the most accurate word. Her trip reaffirmed things that I already knew in my head and now feel in my heart.
My daughter is a terrific friend. She is sensitive to those around her, and she sticks by her friends. She expresses how she feels. The teen years are an intense immersion course in relationships. She was absolutely stunned when she expressed her feelings to someone on the trip, and the response from the “friend” was, “So?” As a result, we’ve had some good discussions on what friendship means, how to set boundaries, how to be self-protecting, and how to handle it when “friends” respond insensitively.
People are amazing! Our daughter’s godfather, Greg, and his fourteen-year-old son happened to be in Washington, D.C., on an over-lapping day with her tour. Greg immediately asked if he could meet up with her. We got approval from the school, and he bought tickets for the dinner-dance cruise. It meant a great deal to our daughter that Greg and his son would take the time to be with her. It meant a lot to us that he would spend hours amidst a throng of high school and middle school teenagers on a boat without escape and without alcohol! From the Potomac, they sent me text messages and photographs. At least three of my daughter’s friends are now “in love” with Greg’s son!
She does not waiver in her determination. Beginning on the plane ride from south Florida, there were several challenges on this trip. She did not cave in. She pushed through the difficulties, taking good care of herself and honoring how she felt. She grew more resilient and confident from the experience.
It is terrific for children (and parents) to go out into the world. They grow, and they return with something to enrich the family and themselves. I could see this in how my daughter approached her voice lesson the week after she got home. I had never seen her so confident! She took risks vocally that she had not done before. I could see it in how she approached her responsibilities with much more leadership.
I can see where I nag. In the quiet around the house during those four days, the “typical daily home soundtrack” replayed in my head. The soundtrack replay made me keenly aware of how much I say, how often I say it, and the tone I use when saying it. After the trip, I actually took my own advice from Redirecting Children’s Behavior and talked less, using one word, i.e., homework or trash or pets, instead of multiple sentences! Minimizing the number of words I’ve used has produced much happier results!
A trip like this allows everyone the space to examine their relationships. My daughter got to appreciate home and family. She got to examine friendships when the time spent with friends allowed everyone to truly be themselves at their best and their worst. And I got to see the results of my daughter’s big step into the world, generously allowing me to see her more as the young woman she is becoming than the child she has been.