Kailyn should have left at 6 am Tuesday, for another five months in France. For many legitimate reasons, she made the decision not to go. It was an agonizing choice. When she first told me she wasn't sure if she could go back, I didn't really understand. I knew she had been homesick, and felt very isolated in France. I knew she was lonely, and had a difficult time finding friends that shared similar interests (sightseeing and traveling versus partying continually). When she finally did make two good friends, neither of them lived on campus, and both were there only the first semester. She spent many hours alone, walking and sightseeing, and wishing things could be different. Having always had numerous friends, she was disconcerted to find that building friendships with varying language barriers was so much more difficult than she had expected. Still, she tried hard to make the best of her situation.
I knew all that, because we skyped a couple times a week, and every time we skyped, I could tell she was sad. She told me she wasn't sleeping well, and I could tell she was losing weight. I told her to eat more, and read herself to sleep in French. I listened, but I didn't hear. I didn't understand, not really, because I've never been completely alone, "a stranger in a strange land". And, resourceful and strong willed, and determined as this child is, I expected that she would do as she always has done: tough it out.
Writing about this now makes me cry, as I came so close to wanting to force her to return to a situation that was becoming exceedingly uncomfortable for her. I kept my opinions to myself mostly and suggested she make a "pros and cons" list and think about her decision, cautioning her that she would have regrets if she didn't go back to France. That was a little over two weeks ago. She called and made herself an appointment with a counselor, whom she has seen twice and has future appointments scheduled. I watched her wrestle daily with her options, and I began to feel fear about her leaving. I was worried about her health . . . emotionally, physically, mentally. When she finally made the decision to stay home, I'm not sure who was more relieved. She told me later she was able to sleep for the first time in months. That broke my heart. Her eagerly anticipated adventure in France had taken a huge toll on her.
These days I see my youngest daughter with new eyes. I recognize the adult within for the first time. Watching from the sidelines as she worked through her France experience, tallying the gains and losses, painstakingly making her decision, I came to appreciate the awareness she has gained, and the growth she has made, as an adult. Without asking for (or allowing) my assistance, she made all phone calls and emails to take care of her final decision, many of which were really hard calls for her to make. She bravely faced some who challenged her, attempted to make her feel guilty, or wrong, or irresponsible. When she shared an email from the coordinator at her college, it brought tears to my eyes, as he wasn't very nice to her. I gave her a hug and said, "It's a good thing I'm not replying to him!" Kailyn stood up for herself. She made arrangements for the transport of her remaining belongings back to the US.
The life lessons learned over the last few months have been enormous, overlapping and attaching themselves to Kailyn and I in ways neither of us would have anticipated. Perhaps, it was the element of the unknown that caused the lessons to worm their way into our consciousness; pry open the hard shell of expectations and assumptions and lay them out, raw and quivering, leaving us both forever changed.
I am the mother of two fiercely independent and uniquely individual daughters, grown up and away from their mother's hovering, anxious wings. Jessica is soaring into her own wild blue yonder, blazing her own trail, grabbing whatever life has to offer, digesting what comes her way. Kailyn is home for awhile to roost, appreciating the safety and security of the nest she calls "home". I am discovering that the less I am needed as a mother, the more I feel wanted as a friend. It's a really nice place to be.
|New Year's Day Hike ~ 2012|