I Do It!

That’s what little children say when they are declaring their independence, their readiness to take on the task that you might think you want to do or that they need you to do. “I do it,” my tiny daughter would say, confidently. Not asking a question like, “can I try,” or even suggesting an opportunity, “maybe I’m ready, let’s see.” No she was saying she was going to do it, the outcome would be hers and it was time to step back. That happens a lot in parenting.

Children grow up faster than we are emotionally prepared for; they go from being totally dependent to totally independent very quickly, and really it is hard to keep up. My son, who is now thirteen will say things about what he was like when he was a little kid by which he means a few months ago. My daughter, who I can remember holding is taller than me, will be going off to college in a couple of months and while I know that she still wants me to be available for certain things doesn’t actually need me for much. That’s all is it should be but it takes some adjusting cognitively, emotionally, sometimes even physically.

Recently my daughter and I took a train from Brussels to Toulouse. We bought our tickets at different times so were  sitting in different compartments. Not a problem because we had our cell phones so could be in touch.  But there was train strike on the day of our travel and  things were rather chaotic. Our route was changed because the first train wasn’t running, our seats no longer existed, there were no conductors to help, it was a mess. But fine, we still had our cell phones and so despite the fact that there were three times as many people on each train than were supposed to be, despite the fact that the routes and stops were not what had been scheduled, and despite the fact that nothing was in English we were going to be fine. Except my phone stopped working and my child was alone on the train.

The thing is, my daughter has travelled a lot. She is very competent and confident. But she is my child and I don’t know where that line gets drawn between making sure she is cared for and letting her just take care of herself. I do know she can care for herself, but something happens and I keep being Mommy, not knowing how to let her be and do it herself.

I had said I would text her before the stop where we had to switch trains. Twenty minutes before the station, when they announced our stop I sent a text. That failed. Over and over and over. I called. Twenty-nine times according to the log. They all failed. My phone, not the latest version does not like the Orange network apparently. It likes pretty much every other network just fine, but not Orange. So I was feeling a little panicked. She had been watching a movie and I didn’t know whether she heard the announcement or not, I thought she was relying on me to tell her when and where to get off the train. I got off the train with hoards, and frantically pushed my two big bags along the very crowded platform trying to remember where she had got on in the chaos of the original departure. The conductors were not speaking to anyone, the station agent seemed sympathetic but not interested in me getting back on the train and running up and down through jam-packed aisles looking for her, and he didn’t seem to really understand what I was saying anyway. I was shaking and begging. A gentleman from out of nowhere offered to translate, he gave me his cell phone and when we finally reached her we could say “GET OFF THE TRAIN!”

There were three of us running up and down the platform looking to see where she got off. The station agent said he was not keeping the train any longer when she called to ask where I was because she was off the train. She was off the train we were transferring to, the train some people she met on the first train had lead her to, the train we needed to get to our destination. Somewhat annoyed she told me to hurry up or I would miss it, the platform she said had an A and an F. The man with the phone and another man who didn’t speak much English but was extremely empathetic frantically searched the boards to find the right platform, we ran together through the station, the man with the phone said it was “the least he could do given what America did for France in the war.”

When I found her she said, “I wasn’t worried, I knew you could figure it out.” I guess I should have said that too. I do know that she can figure this out, I knew it before the obvious fact that she did figure it out, maybe I just didn’t know what the plan was or to not worry when the plan obviously changed. All was well except that I had told her to get off the train that we needed to be on. We got back on the train together, she put her bags up all by herself, she laughed at me for being worried and introduced me to her new friends. It was all just fine.

As soon as the train left the station my phone started working again.

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