A couple of years ago, I went on a weekend jaunt to London with three girlfriends and my daughter, Jessica. Jessica was a ripe, sassy 14 year old who didn’t care to listen to her mother’s directives (read: nothing’s changed). With her iPhone glued to her hand, she didn’t know heads from tails where we were going nor did she seem to care. I was worried that if we got lost in a crowd, she wouldn’t know where to find me.
Lost And Found
We were switching trains at Paddington Station when four of us were quickly rushed out of the train. We looked back and realized Jessica was not with us. Right then the warning bell rang and the doors slammed shut. Jessica stood there looking startled. My friend, Traudel, screamed out Jessica’s name but it was too late. The train started to move on. I frantically waved my arms to get her attention and yelled for her to transfer back at the next station. Shaking her head in confusion, Jessica looked back mouthing the words “What?”
We all stood in silence for a few seconds before deciding what to do. Traudel fretted that Jessica wouldn’t find her way back. The others were confident Jessica could manage the situation.
Somehow I was glad it had happened. It forced Jessica to be in a situation where she had to pay attention and follow directions. She had to employ skills such as asking questions, listening intently, and map reading. All things she is capable of doing but refused to do when I was around.
She eventually made her way back after missing the next stop and diverging farther along the Tube. The only thing we lost was time. Two of my companions were also mothers who perfectly understood the lesson learned: kids sometimes need to be thrown into situations where they have to figure out plan A, and if that doesn’t work, they even need to make a plan B.
Jessica actually came back a bit shaken yet excited to tell her tale. She was proud of herself; she managed to find the station manager and ask for directions because she had missed the next stop and diverged along the Tube. We all breathed a sigh of relief and continued on our journey. My intuition told me that Jessica just grew an inch taller and became a bit wiser.
The Moral Of The Story
The point is that we need to let our kids make mistakes, get lost, and find their own way home. I remember gripping my children’s hands so tightly when we explored a big city or traveled through a country where we couldn’t speak the language.
It is a parent’s worst nightmare to loose a child in a foreign country. I had to let go and trust that Jessica is truly able to find her way in this world because one day she will leave the nest forever.
What Happened Next
Since then we let her and a girlfriend spend their 16th birthday weekend alone in Berlin, something I would have never done in America. She checked in with me a few times a day to calm my nerves. I didn’t sleep too well that night as I had one eye on the phone in case of an emergency.
Again she returned more experienced and independent: I felt a little sad that I am not in control of her movements anymore. I have to concede that here in Europe she is considered an independent adult, something contrary to my adolescent in California where the legal age is 18.
What I Learned
Jessica’s getting lost on the London underground was a test of her ability to look after herself. Cutting the proverbial umbilical cord with your child and let her find her own way in this world is not easy whether you live abroad or not.
Sometimes we are thrown into the situation by circumstance, but the day will come where you have to accept that your child is big enough to handle the world.
Over To You
Have you ever been lost in a foreign city or had an experience like this? I’d love to hear your story. Please leave a comment below.
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