Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Letting Go to Let Them Grow

Be kind: this was 1984
When I was 14, I was finally eligible for The Colorado Trip.  Reserved for kids between the summers of 7th and 8th grade, it was a cross-country trek from Indiana to Colorado and back. Designed to offer a hands-on summer school substitute for Earth Sciences class, the students on the trip were required to complete a journal and rock collection for submission, full participation, and some class time.  The itinerary included the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs; Vail; Durango; a hike up the Great Sand Dunes; and a roughing-it camping segment for five days, starting at Silverton and ending at the hot springs in Ouray.

Mr. Golden, Eureka Trail
Richard Golden (who will always be "Mr. Golden" to me, even 25+ years later) led this trip for many, many years, and I couldn't wait to take my turn.  I was bused to Pierre Moran Jr. High my 7th grade year, on the other side of town from the kids who grew up near me.  In the process, I met a whole new group of friends to add to the friends I already had, and as a result I knew many of the kids on the trip bound for the new middle school system all over town.  On the day we convened to catch our yellow bus, the magical excitement in the air was palpable and electric.  Did I mention we took a school bus?  With no AC.  In the summer. At 13, we didn't care.


Nebulizer, plug-in version
A chronic asthmatic, I wasn't very physical growing up - I couldn't run very fast or very far without wheezing; I wasn't allowed at sleepovers where cats and dogs were present because of the certainty of an asthma attack at some point; camping was out of the question; and cheerleading was the only sport I could really participate in, as it didn't require much stamina in 7th grade.   When I traveled with my family, I had to carry along a cat-cage-sized plug-in nebulizer that looks nothing like the sleek models made today.

My personal hero, Chad: right side, middle row
Not long before the summer of the Colorado Trip, DeVilbiss came out with a battery-pack nebulizer, which would give me some mobility.  One of my classmates was drafted (I'm pretty sure he didn't volunteer) to carry the 8 or 10-pound life-saver in his backpack up the big climb of the trip to the summit of Engineer Mountain.  My friend Michelle Foutz loves to tease me about it to this day and we giggle; but Chad Ward, I am not laughing when I say I will forever be grateful to you for carrying that machine up the mountain for me for one of the best experiences of my young life.  I made it all the way to the top with 11 of 30 of the kids on the trip, and I was so proud.  I did it!  I did something that required physical stamina.  (As it turned out, I didn't need the nebulizer at all in Colorado, but on the way back through Nebraska, something about the fields and flat lands set my lungs off on a bad track and I was grateful to have it with me.) 

The view from 13,000 feet: Engineer Mountain summit

I'm not sure how my parents held it together, sending their 13-year-old off on a two-week trip... the first overnight trip of my life.  I'm already somewhat very protective of my son and try to imagine what it would be like to send my child off to camp, or on a school trip, or even leaving him with my parents for a weekend.  And yet, I recognize that growth requires a little stretching.  It's going to require that I step back and let him make his own mistakes, and teach him to be smart and safe, and trust that he will know the right things to do and make good decisions.  I can't hold his hand his whole life, and I want him to be independent and strong.  In order for him to get there, I'll have to let go a little bit.  And then a little more.  And a little more.  Before I know it, he'll be heading off to college, likely somewhere not in the same town, if he's anything like me.  If he has my wanderlust genes, he could end up at Oxford or even somewhere in Japan, or South Africa.  I hope he wants to see the world, because it's the best way to develop an open mind and an understanding of other cultures and traditions and beliefs. 

Pray for me that I find the strength to be the kind of parents my parents are, and let him experience his own Colorado Trip... or something like it.  I wouldn't want him to miss it.

3 comments:

  1. I met you weeks after this memorable trip! You have already shown to be an exemplary parent (at least from fb!) and I know you will allow your precious son to stretch and grow and learn and make mistakes. It is all a part of the precious process of parenting, and I count that job as the most valuable contribution I will make to this world! Love you, Kristen!

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  2. Thank you Mama Pam! Much love to you as well. :)

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  3. You have no idea how hard it was to send you off to Colorado on a bus with no AC or cell phone. I had to wait for you to call us and I hated to ask how you were feeling. When you returned, I felt like I had made it to the top also, and not having to order the "bubble" for another few weeks. Great article and great pictures. Love you!

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