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  • Writer's pictureErica Tatum-Sheade, LCSW

This Is Where I Leave You

When I was 8, I took my first flight – which was across the ocean to visit Africa. I didn’t fly again until I was 14, this time to visit California – which solidified my desire to live in Arizona (I know, weird right?). I flew again at 16 to take a cruise out of Florida for a friend’s birthday, but that was it. I didn’t take another flight until I was 24, which was my first solo flight to visit ASU after I was accepted into graduate school there. By the time my oldest son was one, he had taken more flights (both private and commercial) than I had in my entire life. One of this kid’s first flights was on a private jet! I didn’t even know real people did that.

 

This morning at 3 am, I drove my niece to the airport for her to catch a flight home after her first out-of-state college tour. My parting words as I walked her to security were, “This is where I leave you.” It got me thinking… at 24, I was terrified to take a flight alone to a foreign place I had only visited on a layover ten years prior. Yes, a family friend was waiting for me on the other side, but I had to rent a car (something completely foreign to me), navigate a large city pre-Siri (hello, printing out Mapquest maps!), and not melt (90 degrees in March was hot coming from winter in Michigan)!

 

The drive back this morning had me thinking, in a matter of days I would be back at the airport walking my son to security to embark on his own college tour, his third solo flight in eight months. This kid has flown to Washington, D.C. to advocate for social justice, attended a teen conference in Sacramento, and will soon embark on a tour to visit historically Black colleges, all without me.


That’s when it hit me: our children are capable of doing incredibly amazing things if we just give them the wings to fly. I speak to parents often about the “Crucial C’s of Childhood” and about ensuring we lay the groundwork for our children’s successful navigation into adulthood. I get a little bit of pushback when I challenge parents to allow their children to figure certain things out on their own, even when we know they are going to get it wrong. If we want our children to know they are truly capable of doing hard things, we have to let them do just that: do hard things, mess up, and then get up and try again.

 

I remember my mother walking me to the gate and waiting with me until the doors closed as she sent me off, obviously, this was pre-9/11.  If I had to navigate Detroit Metro Airport on my own at 16, would I have felt more brave to take that flight at 24? We will never know the answer to those “if the past was different” questions,  but I know this:


Allowing my child to try new things just outside of their comfort zone with safety and support fills not only that “Capable” jar, but also adds a drop to their “Courage” jar. It expands their support circle, which increases their “Connection,” adding to that jar as well. Having places where they have made strong connections and been successful allows them to know that they matter, and that fills the “Count” jar. Allowing our children the room to grow and experience triumphs and trials gives them the tools needed to become successful, impactful adults.

 

“This is where I leave you” doesn’t mean “good luck, I hope you make it,” it means “I know you have the tools to navigate the road ahead, as the groundwork has been laid and you have everything you need to soar.”

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