It is often said in parenting circles about the importance of giving your children roots in childhood so that they can fly and be independent as adults.
The thing about roots is that they grow in the dark, searching for nutrients and moisture, and they tap down, down, down until they get what they need. Their work isn’t visible, but eventually their job becomes manifest in other ways.
As I type these words, my 18-year-old daughter is on an aeroplane flying to Estonia. Solo. She’s had this dream for a number of years, ever since she wrote her novel Consequence at aged 14. The joy I feel at watching her take flight, literally and otherwise, is indescribable. So many people have said to her ‘how brave’ she is, and that they couldn’t do it. There are certain things in life that really define you, and I know from experience that travelling solo to a foreign land is most definitely one of them.
I was raised by a mother who taught me that girls can do anything they want, if they put their mind to it. Powerful stuff!
While studying for her A level exams, my daughter has also held down a part-time job at the local leisure-centre café, and has earnt every penny towards her trip. Every last detail has been funded and arranged by her. That level of independence and self-belief has, I am sure, been founded on a childhood where my daughters were taught to dream big and reach for the stars.
In an hour from now, she’ll arrive in a foreign country where English is not the spoken language. She’ll be excited, scared, curious and adventurous. She will be completely out of any comfort zone. Those roots will give her everything she needs to grow and stretch and seek the light.
Eliza lived in three countries by the time she was a year old, and took her first steps in Dubai airport. I have no doubt over the years that she’ll have many foreign journeys. Her roots were not only nourished in the fertile soil of our family life, but in her ancestry: grandparents who emigrated from Germany to Australia. A father who emigrated from England to New Zealand. And an Australian mother who has lived in different countries. It’s in her blood to travel; to seek new shores. She will search, and she will discover joy and love wherever she travels in this world. Why? Because they were found in abundance in the fertile soil of childhood. These are what she will expect to see, and what she’ll draw to her.
She will return in two weeks from now a changed woman. I wouldn’t expect anything less. The wrench we, as a family, will feel when she leaves for university in two months will be all at once happy and sad. We will miss her vibrant smile, inspiring conversations, her laughter and humour. But we will cheer her on as she finds her way and place in this world, and brings some magic to this thing we call life. My husband and I have been blessed to share in her company for eighteen years. It’s time that other people get to share.
Fly, sweetheart, fly!