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Middle Child leaves for Europe this week. It’s the same kind of trip that Oldest Child took two years ago, a few days in France, a few days in Spain, but Middle Child will be going to different cities than his brother did. The same teacher is heading up the group and it’s a good, responsible, group of kids, so I’m not worried about logistics or crazy behavior. Of course, I am very jealous because I am a ridiculous Europhile, but I am genuinely glad that he’s getting this opportunity, the same as his brother did.

I had my first out-of-the-country experience when I was sixteen. Of course, I’d been to Canada several times before that, but as it is for any Detroiter, going to Canada was so not a big deal. No, I had the opportunity to go to Australia and Hawaii with the Michigan Lions All-State Band and it was a fabulous time. I’ve written about it before, so I won’t go on about it too much, but that trip was a pivotal time in my life. It was on that trip that he realization sunk in that the U.S. was not the only place in the world, that there were other realities for other people, and that the places where they lived were just as important to them as mine was to me. Granted, Australia isn’t shockingly different from the U.S., and Hawaii, while culturally different, is a state, but it was just enough to give me a hunger to see what else is out there, not just in my own backyard. This isn’t discounting anything that is here in the U.S., there are some pretty amazing places in my own country, but I think for people to have a balanced view of the world, they should see more of it with an open mind, not with the expectation that everyone should be like us.

That is what I hope Middle Child takes away from his experience. His first trip overseas will be different than mine, however, because it will be to two countries where English isn’t the first language, and he’s in for a real eye-opener. Even if you take the time beforehand to study the language, using the words around native speakers for the first time is a scary thing. Of course, in the big cities, many people do speak English because there are so many tourists, but I found out that even a little effort to try the native language is appreciated by most people. Middle Child hasn’t done a lot of studying, so he may be in for some surprises.

I said that I wasn’t worried, and I’m not, but there is that part of me that is nervous about letting my baby go for an extended period of time over the ocean without me. It has nothing to do with the threat of terrorism, that’s a risk that we take anywhere we are today, unfortunately, but more of the I’ve-taught-you-everything-I-can-now-you’re-on-your-own kind of thing. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a smart kid and he’s going to be just fine, but I think every mother would feel the same, at the least the first time. When Oldest Child went back to Europe this last summer for work study, I wasn’t concerned at all because he did so well when he went to France and Spain.

All in all, it’s another sign that my kids are growing up. They are moving on to make their own wonderful memories, and that’s a very, very, good thing. Middle Child leaves in just a few days and it’s taking a lot for me not to jump on that plane with him. Maybe sometime in the future, one of them will let me tag along.

 

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Dear Child (Any particular one),

There are things that I’m thinking about when I look at you and you say, “What?”. Here’s some insight as to what may be running through my mind. You see, memories from when you were very new stay with me, and I love to go back and revisit the flashes of you that I still see today.

Things like:

– Taking a pregnancy test to prove your father wrong, happily finding out that it was me who was wrong.

– Going to the doctor because I thought I broke a rib riding horseback, only to find out I would be a mama.

– Taking a pregnancy test because The Wizard of Oz made me sob.

– The secret, flutterby, kicks that made me smile.

-The never-ending waiting for you to be born. Christmas doesn’t hold a candle to a due date.

– Tiny. So, so, very tiny.

– Baby sighs and phantom smiles in your sleep.

– Those baby giggles when I pretended to sneeze.

– The absolute contentment when you would fall asleep on my chest, warm and cozy.

– Baby feet.

– The smell of your baby skin. Intoxicating.

– The way you wanted only me, reaching your chubby little arms out, saying, “Mama!”

– The protective instinct. I could quite easily kill anyone who hurt you, even now.

– Picking you up from preschool. You were so happy to see me, unashamed to hug me as tight as you could and tell me all about your day.

– The first time another kid rejected you. I never wanted to hit a 7-year-old before. (Just to clarify, I would never hit a 7-year-old.)

– The joy of your joy, whether it was a bug friend, a song you sang to me, or a baby lamb, the sight of you deliriously happy was my whole world.

-You sleeping in a fuzzy blanket, dark lashes on pale cheeks.

-The three of you on the couch arms and legs entwined like a pile of puppies while watching tv.

– The ache of watching you become more independent, knowing that every accomplishment takes you a small step away from me, but knowing that it is meant to be.

So when you catch me staring at you, with a funny look on my face, chances are something like these thoughts are racing through my brain. It’s because I love you. I love who you are, I love who you were, and I love who you are becoming.

Mama

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