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March 18, 2010

Separation Anxiety

Airplane I remember my daughter's first day of preschool as if it was yesterday. The moment I tried to leave the classroom, she clung onto me and started to cry.

"Don't worry. It's just separation anxiety," her teacher reassured me. And in a very short time, those weepy, clingy episodes came to an end...

...until now. Ten years have passed and the urge to cling is back.

Only this time, I'm the one who can't let go.

My baby girl is embarking on an eighth grade field trip this month to Washington, DC. She'll be boarding a plane and traveling 2,685 miles without me. And she can't wait.

We were told this excursion was going to happen back when she selected her middle school, three years ago. I didn't think the time would come so quickly. I've had something of a mental block about it; never actually entering the dates in my calendar, as if I could prevent it by simply refusing to acknowledge it.

I can tell you now that this kind of tactic doesn't work. Last week, we found ourselves in the school library with my daughter's teachers and 80 other anxious parents to go over their itinerary and I was forced to admit that this was actually going to happen.

We will soon be driving her to LAX at 4:00 AM (!!) for a six o'clock flight to Dulles Airport, where her seatmates will likely be strangers. She will be bused to a hotel where she will share a room with three other girls, and over the next week will visit landmarks, museums and national monuments like the White House, Lincoln Memorial and Smithsonian Institution.

I have to admit that some of what I'm feeling is jealousy. Just as Ellen Page says in those technology commercials, when I was a kid we just went to the farm. I've never been to Washington and have wanted to visit every site on the list. I should be happy that my kid gets to do this, and I am. But I'm also worried.

I need to trust that she can handle herself, but how can I, when she doesn't have the sense to wear a jacket when the weather forecast predicts rain? 

Of course, these budding little adolescents will not be unsupervised. The teachers who are chaperoning the group have been organizing these trips for 15 years. I have met most of them and like them, and they've done all they can to reassure all the nervous parents.

Deep down, I have faith that it will all go well and that my daughter will grow from this experience.

That's a good thing, because next year, she starts high school. And the big class field trip there is a journey to China.

Original post for 50-Something Moms and Los Angeles Moms Blog by Donna Schwartz Mills, who shares the rest of her neuroses on her personal site, SoCal Mom.