My hands still shake a little as they maneuver the familiar bamboo needles around the yarn. Poke under, loop over, duck through, slide off: the familiar motions calm as they distract. Nervous energy dissipates.
It’s spring break, I’m at the airport. We’ve made it through check in and security, stopped at the overpriced airport store for a quick lunch, and arrived at the gate with just enough time. Airline employees have announced that boarding has begun, the waiting crowd funnels into the plastic looking tunnel. The plane is overbooked and they are paying volunteers to stay behind. I’m still waiting. My daughter was allowed to board early, an “unaccompanied minor”. It’s her first flight, my first time in an airport as an adult which reminds me of how small my life is; like the contents of a snow globe, detailed and busy but quiet and contained. Isolated. Lacking scope and broad scale perspective. Not by choice, by circumstances.
The plane is taxied away from the gate so that is facing me. All those people unknowingly looking directly at me, sitting here in the now quiet gate alone. I can feel the contrast. My little girl, really not so little anymore, among their ranks. I wonder if she’s nervous now, sitting in the back of the crowded plane alone. About to embark on something possibly resembling an adventure. I’m excited for her as I watch the plane roll away. They told me to stay until her plane had taken off. Just in case.
Just in case is a scary thought. It keeps us grounded. Those things that can happen and sometimes do, just often enough to keep us vaguely afraid of the unknown, they hold us back from taking the first steps toward something new, possibly a bigger life, complete with new challenges and a change of perspective. I almost didn’t agree to this trip because of the what-ifs, the just in case. It’s my job to keep my daughter safe. She’s never flown before; sending her off on a giant airplane (that may be prone to crash) alone is intimidating. Fear was holding me back, possibly reasonable fear but fear nonetheless. But then I thought about my lovely young daughter and what I want for her in life. I want her to be kind and compassionate, I want her to be successful in the endeavors she embarks on, to have the persistence and courage to try new things, to take risks, and see them through. Among other things I want her to be bold and brave in her own quiet, strong way. Earlier in the school year I encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone and join the student government at her middle school…and she did. But here I was letting fear disguised as caution prevent her from an opportunity that would encourage that same boldness, independence, and bravery I want to foster in her. I watch my daughter’s plane roll out of sight, wheels still on the ground, and think about the task of filtering out the bad while letting the good pass through. It’s one of the trickiest parts of parenting, one that requires good judgement and foresight along with a fair deal of trust, just enough trust that things will work out to balance the fear that they won’t. Because sometimes they don’t. Just because nothing bad has ever happened before doesn’t mean nothing bad will ever happen. Boldness tempered with caution.
Finally the plane carrying my girl is out of sight. Most likely it has left the ground and I’m free to leave but it’s peaceful here now, the airport sunny and quiet. The too few hours of sleep after working a short third shift threaten to catch up to me as I sit calmly in the warm, window filtered sunlight. I could nap here, despite the steady flow of strangers passing by, but my own small, busy, hectic life calls and begs my immediate return.