On Monday, Caroline (our adopted 13-year-old) will experience her first day of middle school. While she’s admitted to being nervous once before, she now seems confident and ready. She’s decorated her locker, memorized her schedule, and organized her school supplies.
We’re fortunate to be carpooling with another family (who incidentally has an adopted daughter Caroline’s age from the Ukraine), and the mom will be driving mornings while I’ll handle pickup in the afternoons. Knowing that middle school is a whole new ballgame for Caroline, I asked her if she’d like me to drive her myself the first morning or two. She smiled at me and replied, “No, I’m fine!”
And when she said those words, I had conflicting emotions. On one hand, I was glad she feels comfortable about her first day. But on the other hand, I wish she needed me more. I wish she would allow herself to be more dependent.
One of my favorite memories is from Caroline’s first day of school last year. When I dropped her off, she began walking in and then turned back to look at me. My reassuring smile met her expectant eyes, and she grinned back. This has happened many times since. So to this day, I never drive off until she is completely out of sight in case she looks back to me.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve found in adopting and parenting an older child is trying to bond while she naturally, at this age, is wanting to spread her wings. I’m okay with that…partially. If she would just fly circles around me. I’m not ready for her to separate from me when we’re just learning how to be mother and daughter.
I wonder what she would think if I took her to school on her first morning anyway? Would she feel loved and secretly thankful? Or would she be annoyed and wonder how she ended up with a hovering, overbearing mother? Or even worse, in my opinion, what if she were simply indifferent?
I realize all parents struggle with watching their children become more independent. But it’s especially difficult when you want to give your child what they never had before…security and love…while providing them the freedom to grow. There’s so much we need to give our kids to make up for all they missed throughout their childhoods. But it’s a delicate balance.
I still haven’t decided whether to drive Caroline to school myself on Monday morning or to let her ride with carpool. If you have any thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear them! I’ll let you know how it turns out!