If you have children you know that from the time they are born, we parents have many hopes and dreams for them and for their future. Our first child has been very energetic and enthusiastic about life right from the start. He likes to give everything a try. We have always envisioned him travelling and experiencing the world, going out and connecting with people everywhere.
So, it just makes sense that when he came to me at the age of 18 with a plan to travel overseas, I told him that he was crazy.
When he persisted and added that he would be travelling with his 19-year-old cousin, I told him that I didn’t think this was a good idea. It was scary enough a few years ago, when we learned that the two of them were in the same grade 12 Chemistry class…..imagine the damage they could do if we unleashed them on an unsuspecting foreign country!
Of course he was right – I was being unreasonable. What could go wrong when two teenaged farm boys hit Ireland with the intention of a few months of touring pubs, the Guinness Factory and the Jameson’s Distillery?? What could possibly go wrong when my son who cannot wake up to an alarm or make his own lunch gets on an airplane and flies across the ocean to another country where he knows no one?
I asked him if he would wait and leave after his 19th birthday so that we could celebrate together….because that’s what every 18-year-old boy looks forward to….celebrating his 19th birthday with his Mom. That idea was shot down instantly and repeatedly. I could see that his mind was made up, so I decided to change my attitude. If you can’t beat them, join them.
I actually prefer the quote ‘If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten’ by George Carlin. However, in this case it seemed inappropriate.
I came around to his way of thinking and I did my best to get excited about the amazing adventure that my son and my nephew were embarking on. My sister-in-law and I drove them to the airport, kissed them goodbye and told them that we would see them at Christmas. There were no emotional goodbyes. At this point of no return I wanted them to leave us feeling strong and secure in the knowledge that we were excited for them and that we knew that this was a great idea. I truly felt that way, but also I secretly thought that security would stop them and make them come home with me that day. That never happened. Apparently airport security has no problem with boys travelling overseas alone. Even if they can’t make their own sandwiches or fold their own socks.
They contacted us when they landed in Dublin. I was thrilled to know that they had found the correct airplane and that they were in the country that they had planned to be in on that sunny October morning.
In the following days and weeks we heard stories and saw pictures of the boys touring not only pubs and the Guinness factory, but also castles and ancient ruins, farms and cathedrals. Their Facebook pictures showed new friends from various countries, and videos of them having a great time. The texts I received from my son have almost always started with ‘Hi Mom – Guess where I am!’ and have almost always ended with ‘I am having so much fun!
We have only received one call that started with ‘Mom I have a problem’….
As you can imagine, I pictured lost passports, stolen money, illness and injury. Turns out that the ‘problem’ was a lack of hostel vacancies in the town they had arrived in, forcing them to rent a suite at the Marriott. Oh the tragedy!! They enjoyed a night of wearing plush hotel robes and hopefully bathing before returning to their real world the next evening of sharing rooms and stories with other travellers in the much more affordable hostel rooms.
Our son’s 19th birthday arrived on 11/11/11. I made his birthday cake and spoke to him on the phone. He told me that he had met up with our friends’ cousins who live in Ireland, and that they were having our boys over for supper that night at their farm. Another local had befriended the boys and he was making our son a birthday cake at his newly opened pub conveniently located just a few blocks away from their hostel.
It occurred to me that I was really happy that our son hadn’t listened to me. I am truly thrilled that he is experiencing such amazing things at this young age. He worked hard to raise the money he needed, and without the trappings of mortgages and full-time employment he is free to go and spend it all exploring the world…..as long as he keeps enough in his wallet to return to college in January….
So here it is, my one time only, written admission that he was right and I was wrong. It will never happen again, but in this case he was correct. It is good that he left when he did, it’s fantastic that he’s experiencing life in other countries first hand, it’s thrilling that he’s making friends and connecting with people who not only live in other countries but in some cases don’t even speak his language.
And, speaking to him from across the ocean on his 19th birthday made it feel even more extra special, because we know that he is out there living his life in a way that we have always hoped and dreamed that he would.
Happy Birthday buddy, stay safe, and we’ll see you at Christmas.
“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” – Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist.