Sunday, November 12, 2006

Taking Flight

Recently my 19 year old daughter started seeing a guy regularly, for what I think is the first time ever. She's a beautful girl, spunky, funny, smart, wordly, though not necessarily in human relations. She's always had tons of guy 'friends." Just friends. Perhaps a heart breaker or ball buster, depending on your point of view. But now there's this new guy in her life, a bi-lingual schoolteacher. Recently he came by to meet me, and he was charming, really spending time, really wanting to talk. "hmm, 29" I ask? "Yeah, but my maturity level is really only about 24 or 25..." On first impression, a nice guy, a great looking guy, a guy who seems to really like my daughter, a guy who's knocked around quite a bit himself. The relationship continues around the grueling hours my daughter puts in as union crew in production on a national tv show.

Friday morning she stops in for her usual breakfast between her night out and work day and tells us, "I think I'm moving out on Sunday. Well, moving in with D. It's a temporary thing." She's done this once before, not with a guy involved, but into a separate house, 5 blocks away right after high school graduation. Turns out we saw her then more than ever, as she realized she preferred to eat with us, once no longer under our thumb. This time it's different. It's not running away, it's co-joining. I tell her, "Great... We'll have to start a Sunday dinner ritual together to see you." I genuninely am pleased for her. I wonder if she feared my reaction would be different.

Hours later I mull how this is the kind of news that tears so many families apart. What? A 19 year old moving in with a 29 year old you hardly know!!?? But I trust her, and I trust what little I know of him. I trust that this is part of her growing up. As I shared with her, in fact, I've always been more worried that she wouldn't make a human connection than I ever was of promiscuity. This strikes me as a move beyond selfishness and impulsive behavior. She looks too happy and is doing too well in her life to feel any alarm. On her Myspace page, I see a look in her eyes I've never seen before.

So much has to do with trust. I know my family dynamic is featured in a documentary where many people (particularly Netflix users) have weighed in that we're the worst parents ever, with the most bratty spoiled kids. I know that's not true. My daughter is thriving in the real world where responsibility and hard work matter. She loves her mother, and father, and brother. She loves her job. Now she's loving a guy. I applaud who she is and the road she's on. Sure there've been some bumpy moments. There've been moments when I've had to tear my hair out in frustration, anger, and fear. She's had to be reeled in. I've had to hover and let go. But the trust has been earned, on both sides, and now it's strong. It's exciting to watch her take flight.

It's just one of those things, the endless parenting conversations and clashes in style. Many parents strive to keep their kids innocent as long as possible. Not me. I've applauded every single step towards independence. From sitting up to walking to riding the school bus, driving, and now moving out. It's seeing who they are - as full human beings. My kids. It's tremendously exciting.


Joe Swanberg said...

GREAT POST! Thanks for sharing.

castleshadow said...

I think my daughter would never speak to me again if I wrote about her romantic life this way!

Lake County said...

I can't believe people would say that you're the worst parents. You've gone a great job!

Hartstein said...

So I FINALLY got around to checking this out. I'm not sure if you'll even see this post, but I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your perspective on what would probably be a thornier issue in my family. My little sis has dated at least one older guy (seemed like a dead beat to me, he still lived with his mom) and my parents were fine with it - but if she wanted to move in I think that attitude would have changed very quickly. But maybe after reading your post I should reconsider that knee jerk reaction and maybe my parents would just have just let Brooke take care of herself, because she certainly is capable...I don't know. Thanks though.