when the chicks fly far from the nest

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Learning to Fly.

Sending a son or daughter off to college a few hours from home is challenging, but manageable. Sending one to Ireland for four months, now that’s a different story.

I’ve lived in nine cities in six different states, went to college 2,000 miles from my parents and I love to travel and explore. We’ve always encouraged our kids to have a sense of adventure, and both considered colleges far from home. But when they both chose to stay in-state, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Living three or four hours away gave them the freedom and independence they needed. It gave me peace of mind knowing that if there was an emergency, I could get there pretty quickly. That changed this week.

On Monday morning, we drove our daughter to the airport in Denver to begin a four-month study abroad program in Cork, Ireland. It’s an incredible opportunity, and I am so excited for her … but it was a long drive home. It was also a long and awkward elevator ride back to the parking lot after we said our goodbyes in the airport. I only cried for a couple of minutes, but it probably seemed much longer than that to the man who stepped into the elevator with us at the last minute. Bet he won’t do that again without taking a closer look at the occupants first.

I’d like to take a moment now to thank everyone who has played a part in developing all of the amazing technology that allows us to communicate in real-time from almost anywhere in the world. Thanks to Facebook messaging and Google+ hangout video chats, I’ve gotten to talk face-to-face with Anna, take a walking tour around her new digs and keep running conversations up on the screen when we’ve both been at our computers. Otherwise, I’d probably still be crying in an elevator.

It’s tough knowing that I can’t just hop into the car if she needs me. (Of course, I can hop into the car, drive to the airport and take several planes!) I take a lot of comfort in the fact that she’s smart, independent and resourceful, and have no doubt that she’ll thrive wherever she lands. One of her best friends is with her as well, so I feel better knowing that there’s someone there to give her a hug when I can’t.

I’d like to take another moment now and ask that if you’d like to tell me a story that includes the fact that your daughter went on a study abroad program to Australia and never came back, and now your grandchildren live in Australia and you never get to see them, don’t. That’s like telling a pregnant woman how terrible your childbirth experience was. Keep that stuff to yourself.

Scott and I will be going for a visit before too long, and planning for that is helping take my mind off of the distance. Luckily, Andy is still at home with us for a few more weeks, then he will also be starting a new adventure. His is closer to home; he will be starting an intensive automotive technology and street rod customization program at Wyotech in Laramie, Wyoming.

And before we know it, they’ll both be home for Christmas. In the meantime, we’ll be doing some traveling, taking some rides and creating more tales from the empty nest!

© 2014 Mandy Gauldin

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