A few months before my daughter turned 16 we went on a trip that taught me a lot about Miranda and what she was capable of on her own. I will add that I learned a few things about myself as well. I was looking for a different kind of experience for us, one that might challenge us in new ways and decided on an Outward Bound family experience in Colorado. Truth told, I can’t remember if she really wanted to go, but off the two of us went anyway to scale mountains and do a bit of river rafting.
Parts of it were challenging at times (rock climbing) even for a mom with military training, but Miranda sailed through it all with a confidence that seemed strong and steady with each new activity.
After backpacking to a remote site where we camped together as part of a larger group, the final exercise in our week together was designed to be a solo overnight camping experience away from the rest of the group and the instructors. As we were packing up to go, one by one the teens were given a choice to camp with their parent or go solo. One instructor went round the circle checking with each teen and all said they wished to overnight with their parent except my daughter who chose to camp solo.
I have to admit I felt a twinge of parental sadness at first and then a surge of pride remembering that this was not just about me as I tried to balance the knowledge that she was growing up and developing a separate identity, along side with my fears about our changing relationship. Intellectually I understood why differentiation was important, but it was still a difficult time and I’m sure my fear made it harder for Miranda.
The instructors dropped us off individually walking us into places to camp where we would not encounter anyone else. We were told not to go beyond certain areas using natural markers such as ” that rock or this tree “ and told that if we were to come upon another camper to turn around and walk quietly away so as not to disturb someone else’s experience. We would be left alone until the instructor came by on foot to get us the next morning and we were encouraged to write while we were in the woods and set up a place to sleep. We were given an opportunity to take easy to eat food with us or fast with only water until the next day so fires and food prep would not be an issue.
I set up a tarp to sleep under and rolled out my sleeping bag. I was thinking about the week we’d had together and writing before it grew too dark to see when I heard some rustling on the perimeter of the space I’d been “ assigned. “ After a bit more movement, I saw Miranda walking out of the woods towards me. They had dropped us off in a way designed to keep us from knowing where the others were and while I knew they were all out there somewhere, I was not sure where anyone actually was.
Miranda walked over quite casually and said something I remember as, “ Hey, I’m going to sleep soon and I wanted to say goodnight. “
I was surprised that she’d found me without not knowing where I’d been left and it touched me she’d stopped by to connect for a minute and say goodnight. Doing so let me know she was fine and that she knew how to find me if she needed me. It might have been a small thing, but afterwards I felt more peaceful about our changing relationship than I had before the trip.
People often say that life in general and parenting in particular should come with directions or a road map of some kind, but the truth is most of us just muddle through doing the best we can. If we’re lucky, we can recognize if we take a wrong run or get lost, and most of us can right ourselves fairly quickly after a well placed word from someone who knows the way forward.
As Miranda turns 30 today I want to say how grateful and impressed I am to have been both a guide, and the guided in the life we’ve shared, and how proud I am of all she’s accomplished. Here’s to new adventures and future road trips!
Happy Birthday, Miranda!