And I remember my mother showing up at the airport when I got back. She was so happy to see me, so grateful that nothing had happened. Then she said, "I'm so proud of you."
Fast-forward to a few years ago. My 16-year-old daughter spends a school year in France living with a family—something called School Year Abroad. She's like me: headstrong, adventurous. She tells me she's going with another girl to Rome. By themselves. So this is not with the family, this is alone. I tell her, "I don't know if I want you to do this. You'd better be careful, blah, blah, blah...and hold on to your money. The trains there are very dangerous—I've heard a lot of stories about theft."
So she goes to Rome. And I think to myself, Well I did it—I have to let her do it.
But then we got a call very early one morning. "Mom," I heard this quiet voice saying, "We had our money stolen on the way to Rome. Can you wire us some more?" And of course I said, "I told you! What did I say?"
Oh, the anxiety we felt, and the anger, and the oh-my-God-my-daughter's-in-Rome-by-herself panic. And then it hit me. This is what my mother experienced raising a high-spirited, independent girl like me. Because my daughter is just like me. And I thought, "This is really hard. Things can go wrong! How did my mother do it?" Now I can see how difficult it was and how strong she was to let me go. I understood the depth of her feeling, her love, and her fear that something would happen. I felt such an appreciation for that, so many years later.
My mother died last August, and I found myself standing in the midst of her things, filled with all this emotion, this longing and missing. I realized once again how much she gave me, and all I want to do is give my children the same: the strength to love someone profoundly, and in the end let them be who they are.