31 January 2005

Single...With Children: In Spite Of A Flight, Daughter Chases Dream

Single With Children: 140 days and an ocean away

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 04/09/03

I'm writing this column before a special dinner with a special guest of honor. I thought about writing it after dinner, but I know from experience that it's hard to write when tears threaten my vision. I'm being proactive.

In January, my 19-year-old daughter informed me that she had signed with an agency that would match her with an international family in search of an au pair. I admit that I wasn't too terribly worried because I thought this might be a passing phase. I also mistakenly figured that Katie's flying phobia would kick in and she would abandon the idea like a hot potato.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

Tomorrow she will take off from Baltimore for an overnight flight for Shannon, Ireland, where she will be installed as a nanny for an Irish family with two young children and one on the way in late April. She will be gone until Aug. 21. Right this second, that feels like an awfully long time. It would be an understatement to say that I will miss her. I miss her already.

Please don't misunderstand, I know intellectually that this will be a great adventure and learning experience. References have been checked out on both sides and I feel quite comfortable that she will be sharing the home of a fine family. I also know she will enjoy the culture, the responsibility of taking care of a 2- and 3-year-old and that her days will be filled with something new every day.

However, 140 days is a very long time to go without seeing one's daughter, and even though she moved into her own apartment last June, I always knew she was a mere five miles away. This time there will be the very big pond that is the Atlantic Ocean separating us.

Of course, at some point I will visit her during the summer, which opens up the opportunity for me to visit a country I would very much enjoy knowing more about. I also have a family friend in France who plans to make a trip in late June with his daughter, both of whom know Katie pretty well. I think her dad, stepmom and of course, her boyfriend, all will be crossing the Atlantic to see her, so it will be a great chance for her to play tour guide in between her responsibilities as an au pair. I remind myself it's Ireland and not the moon she's winging her way toward.

Having said that, I know that tonight, when I embrace her for a good long hug, a lot of that good reasoning is going to fly out the window. I hope she forgives me if a few tears stream down my face. I'll do my best to smile and send her away with something that will make her feel brave, but most of all remind her of just how loved and cared for she is to each one of us who will be waving good-bye.

And, as much as I know her brother will miss her, he will be driving her car to school tomorrow and will make use of it until she returns home. He'll try to hide his excitement at this new freedom that is falling into his lap, but I know tomorrow morning, he's going to feel especially grown up as he drives himself to school and no longer requires my chauffeur skills. Both of my kids will be experiencing milestones simultaneously. My maternal job description is quickly dwindling by the day. I wonder if anyone needs a mom for hire?

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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