This week my youngest son will leave for a 16-day European adventure with a group of students and teachers. That’s a simple, straightforward sentence, but here is the subtext: “In less than 84 hours my 14-year-old son will leave me and fly across the vast Atlantic Ocean to spend 16 days traveling, taking risks, and thinking very little about me back at home.” As I prepare his suitcase, I struggle to prepare myself for his absence.
Honestly, we’ve known for a while that this opportunity would be available this summer. Just three years ago his older brother went on a similar trip, and because of this, my youngest was “grandfathered” into the group if he chose to go. It was a no-brainer for him; he’s been counting down the days. For me, saying “yes” to the adventure felt fairly easy last August, when it was nine months away. However, now that the boarding passes are ready to print, my heart feels unsure. I pause and ask myself, “Why?”
My initial responses are expected. Specifically, memories of recent terrorist attacks in Europe and a host of worries about international travel leap to mind. However, I know that the teachers leading this trip are seasoned and discerning. They are capable, cautious, and connected, and I trust them to make wise decisions on behalf of the group.
As I prepare his suitcase, I struggle to prepare myself for his absence
Next, I wonder if my son is ready: ready to be away from home (i.e. me) for more than two weeks; ready to be responsible for his passport, money, and luggage; or even ready to set his alarm, take daily showers, and remember his deodorant. This won’t be the first time he’s ventured away from the nest. He’s a summer camp veteran. However, the difference between five days in camp and sixteen days in Europe seems vast.
As anxiety begins to build, two things interrupt its escalation. A life verse comes to mind: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). I’m able to recognize that this fear that is threatening to overwhelm me is not from God, and so I find peace. When anxiety edges close during the next three weeks, I will breathe deeply and remember this.
Then, I remember my older son’s experience on his trip. A quiet, shy boy, he traveled across the world, engaged with new people, tried new things, and returned home capable, confident, and changed. One of the chaperones remarked how my son was fully present throughout the trip and said “yes” to each opportunity, whether it be a snowy hike in the Alps or the chance to eat a strange, new food. His European adventure called forth courage and exposed him to a brave new world.
A quiet, shy boy, he traveled across the world, engaged with new people, tried new things, and returned home capable, confident, and changed.
I know that my younger son will experience similar adventures on his trip, and it will evoke his courage and shape his character. St. Augustine wrote, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”. How amazing to travel the world at the age of 14! I’m so grateful that he has this opportunity, and back here at home, I will have my courage called forth and character shaped as I await his return.
Photo by the talented Stills by Hernan.