I’m supposed to be (as I write this) in Washington, DC, for the National Right To Life conference right now. I was all packed, had re-dyed my hair, and set a 4 am alarm for my 7 o’clock flight this morning, when my fifteen-year-old daughter, Eiffel, came into my room for cuddles last night around 11 pm.
I should’ve already been asleep but the solitaire on my phone wasn’t gonna play itself, ya know …
She crawled into my bed and I was holding her, scratching her back, talking to her about a trip she’s about to take. The thing is, it’s not just any trip. She worked all last year and saved up to go to Greece with her best friend and her family, but at the last minute the trip was canceled due to Covid.
It was bumped to this summer. And now my daughter is leaving for five weeks on Sunday.
Getting Home Too Late
When I originally purchased my flight to DC, I didn’t know the details of her trip. I didn’t realize until it was on the calendar that I’d be getting home two hours after she was taking off to go halfway around the world.
“It’s no big deal,” I thought. I’ll just spend some extra time with her the week before I leave. I’ve never been good at the work/life balance thing, but figured this was a good compromise.
And that’s exactly what we did. We’ve been watching movies, and last night her father and I took her out for an ungawdly amount of Italian food — ready to send her to the land of olives on a belly full of pasta.
But then, as I was holding her last night, it hit me. Like, really really hit me. I already knew this was going to be the farthest away for any of my kids I’d ever been… and for the longest amount of time.
But what I didn’t fully acknowledge until that moment was the fact that from the second your child first exists, they’re detaching from you.
You’re their first home. You literally share your body with them. Then they are born, and you are still practically one as you feed them, and hold them, and love them. You’re with them for every second of their day. But as time goes on, they start to become more independent. It happens so gradually at first.
They begin to hold their own bottles … then they learn to walk … then they start going to daycare or over to friend’s houses without you. Suddenly, you don’t know every moment of their day anymore. They have full experiences without you.
The Last Time
My oldest is now twenty, and on Father’s Day I was telling him about that viral meme that says, “One day you’ll pick up your child for the last time and not even realize it.” It always chokes me up and obviously led to me nearly throwing out my back as I attempted to pick up this grown man in my in-law’s living room. Anyway, that’s real.
So, I asked Eiffel if I should stay home. She cracked a sly half-smile and said, “Can you?” Then she said, “Don’t you have to speak somewhere or something?” I told her it was just a conference and half my board was already going, to which she burst into a huge smile and said, “Yes! You don’t need to go then, right? You should definitely stay,” before curling back up in my arms.
A few moments later, she asked how much my plane ticket was because that’s just how her brain works. I told her a couple hundred bucks and she got quiet. Eventually, she went back to her own room and suddenly my phone lit up with a text that read, “It’s ok you can go on ur trip momma.”
Not the Same
And that was it. In literally the eleventh hour, that’s the moment I knew what I had to do. I texted the board members I was supposed to be staying with and the friends I was supposed to meet up with, and rolled over and woke up the husband who thought he was driving me to the airport in the morning, to let them all know my trip was off.
Eiffel will still be fifteen when she gets back home in August, but she won’t be the same fifteen-year-old I’m sending off to Greece on Sunday. She will be more independent. More separated from me. More grown. It’s a beautiful and devastating thing all at once.
But for three more days, I get to have the Eiffel I have right now, and nothing in this world is more important to me than that time. So, I went into her room, told her the news, and we ended up having one of the best, deepest conversations we’re ever had about life, spirituality, and her goals for the future … because I was able to turn off that 4 am alarm and stay up until 2 in the morning talking with my daughter.
Destiny Herndon De La Rosa is the founder of the secular pro-life group New Wave Feminists. She is a frequent op/ed contributor to the Dallas Morning News and a sought-after speaker. She wrote the “Improbable Hagiographies” series for Chapter House.