The trouble, of course, is that when you raise a child in this manner what you end up with a strong, smart, independent and brave young person who is capable of making sound and reasonable decisions, even difficult ones that are best for them but perhaps terribly hard for you as a parent.So it has been this summer as the Intrepid Junior Blogger, stretching her wings and strengthening her independence, made the decision to leave Fort McMurray to live in Calgary with her father in order to finish her high school years there.
It has taken me weeks to type those words without crying, let alone saying them out loud. You see while she is ready to go – a young woman who is undoubtedly a “big city kid” feeling a bit constrained and out of place in our northern community – I was not quite ready as her mother to see this transition take place. I was prepared for it two years from now, after graduation from high school, but even though I could see the signs that she was ready – more than ready – for a new challenge, I wasn’t ready for it yet.The truth is, though, our kids are not – and should not be – all about us. We work to foster and encourage this kind of independence, this ability to make their own decisions, but how hard it is on occasion for us when they actually make them! How we struggle with our own feelings – in my case, wondering how I will cope as I will live alone for the very first time in my entire existence on this planet, and wondering if somehow I failed her as a mom.
And yet I know that her decision is not a signal of failure, but one of success. She is not leaving to escape but rather to explore, not to abandon her former life but to embrace a new one. Her strength and courage is a bit formidable to me, because the safe path would be to stay here in the place she has always known, but I did not raise my daughter to follow the safe path. I raised her to follow her own path instead, and so she is.Shortly after she decided to remain in Calgary I learned of the death of a child of a friend. My own mourning for my situation quickly dissipated in the face of true suffering, as my friend’s pain was the true mourning for a lost child, while my mourning was of the selfish kind. It put my own loss into sharp perspective, as I realized I had in the grand scheme not lost anything at all.
The IJB will visit often, as much of the Triple M Zoo will remain here with me (and I recognize I am running the risk of becoming a cliché, the single woman with too many cats). She will have an opportunity, though, to develop and grow in a far larger city, one perhaps more amenable to her nature and personality as she is older and wiser than her years. While her decision was initially very difficult to accept I have come instead to welcome it, because while I am in some sense sad to see her decide to go I am thrilled at having raised a child who could make this kind of decision and know it is the right one for her.In time I suspect I will begin to see this as an opportunity for both of us, as for the past three years I have been so immersed in being her full-time parent that many things I treasure slipped to the side, and I rejected opportunities in favour of that role. I have a book to finish, for starters, and so many projects I put off to begin two years from now. It seems the time, however, is now.
When she first suggested her desire to live in Calgary I admit I thought of relocating, packing up the entire zoo and selling my house to head south. When I told friends they reacted in the kind way friends do (“you can’t leave, you belong here!”), but the truth is I decided not to go because in the same way the IJB knows where she needs to be I do, too. Whatever I am meant to be doing in Fort McMurray, whatever my purpose here is, I know somehow it is not over yet, and there is far more for me to accomplish. You are stuck with me, I am afraid.And so it is. The IJB will live in Calgary with her dad, returning for frequent visits with her mom and her menagerie of crazy animals. It has not been – and will not be – an easy transition for me, but then I remind myself that being a parent isn’t all about me, but about her. That realization always dries my tears as I instead find myself feeling intensely proud of a young woman unafraid to follow her own path – and perhaps just a bit like her mother in that regard, too.