I’m writing this as I drive my daughter to camp. Well, Mike Miller is driving and I’m feverishly typing away on my computer because that is how I deal when I’m working something through. I write.
I’ve already cried and I can tell I’m not done. This is hard. I’m worried about her.
My daughter has a genetic eye condition called accommodative esotropia. When Emmy Grace was a baby, she wasn’t hitting her milestones. So we took her to the doctor. They told us she was legally blind and that she couldn’t see without extremely high powered correction. I cried. I was brokenhearted for her when I learned that she would have to wear pink plastic glasses that were as thick as a Coke bottle. I was sad when they told me she had little to no depth perception. I mourned for her, and for me, that she wasn’t “normal.” Then something beautiful happened. I put her glasses on her for the first time. I looked at her precious little face and how happy she was when finally, for the first time in her life, she could truly SEE. In that moment, I decided to look at the positives — that we live in a day and age where she will have the best care that doctors can give her; that she will have correction that will allow her to see; that she won’t go blind like children who had her condition generations ago did; that one day there might be a new surgery that she can have when she is 21 years old. I looked at the positives, chose to be grateful, and I let go.
But there’s still a tender spot. I still hurt for her. I hate it for her, that when she takes her glasses off, she is completely cross eyed. I am worried she will have dirty glasses all week and won’t be able to see. I wonder who will clean them for her. I worry that she will break her glasses and have to wear her backup pair which are a hot mess and don’t even fit her face. And worst of all, I keep envisioning this scene where she takes her glasses off and some girl in her tent who doesn’t know her yells in front of the whole cabin, “Ew, why are you CROSS EYED.” I can see the look on my daughter’s face when it happens and my heart breaks into a million pieces because I won’t be there to comfort her. I won’t be there to fix it for her. But you know what, maybe that is exactly what she needs.
You know what I’ve realized? I keep thinking about everything that MIGHT go wrong when she goes to camp instead of focusing on everything that might go right. Sure, maybe she will get made fun of. Maybe she will have dirty glasses. Maybe she will break her glasses and have to wear her back up pair. But you know what else she might do? Maybe she will create lifelong friendships. Maybe she will grow in confidence. Maybe she will grow in independence. Maybe she will deepen her relationship with Christ. Maybe she will GROW.
Parenting is hard. Anything that starts with pregnancy and childbirth isn’t going to be easy people. That should have been our first clue. But you know what is even harder than pregnancy and childbirth combined? LEARNING TO LET GO; Learning to let them spread their wings and fly. Letting go, without a doubt, is the hardest part of parenting to me. But it’s oh, so necessary. For us and for them.
As I sit here making the drive to New Life Ranch in Colcord, Oklahoma, I am thinking of birds. Yes, birds. I’m thinking of how a mother bird, at first, leaves her babies in the safety of the nest while she flies out to go get them food. She feeds them; she nurtures them; and then what does she do? When they are strong enough and big enough, she pushes them out of the nest. She pushes them out of the nest so they can learn to fly. She pushes them out of the nest because she knows their wings are ready, so they have to use them. They have to develop them. They have to make them strong. So they have to be pushed out of the safety of their nest, by their mother, so that they can ultimately learn to soar.
How are we any different than these creatures of nature? Is it not our job, as parents, to teach our children to fly? Is it not our ultimate goal that they will learn to be healthy, independent adults? If so, how will they get there if we don’t nudge them out of the nest — even if it’s scary or hard for us to do as their parents — so that they can learn how to fly?
I wonder if that mother bird feels frightened when she pushes those babies out of the nest. I wonder if she feels scared that they will fall to their death. I bet she holds her breath, waiting in expectation, as they flap their wings frantically, trying to learn how to catch the wind and soar. Then I wonder how she feels when she sees them finally take flight — relieved; satisfied; then finally, I would say she feels proud as she sees them rise up on the wind, spread their wings, and FLY. I know she feels proud of that baby bird but I wonder, does she feel proud of herself too? Does she realize that she had the courage to push her baby out of the nest, even though it was hard; even though it wasn’t easy; even though it felt scary as hell? I wonder if she realizes that SHE is the reason they will learn how to fly rather than living a life of dependency on her, because she had the courage to push her baby from the nest.
That is me right now. I’m pushing my baby out of the nest. And I’m scared. I’m holding my breath, waiting in anticipation. I’m thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I’m thinking about her dirty glasses and the potential mean girl who calls her cross eyed. But you know what else I’m thinking…she’s going to soar. I know she is. She’s going to spread her wings and fly and when I go to pick her up next Saturday, I’m going to be proud of both of us:
Proud of me, because I didn’t let fear control me and I had the courage to push her out of the nest. And proud of her, because she had the strength to fly.
PS I just read this to Michael and he wants to know what the daddy bird does. Daddy bird, thanks for paying for camp
PS. I miss this sassy little face already. I bet she misses me so much she is crying everyday. (YEAH RIGHT.
PPS no joke as I was sitting here uploading these pictures and I got this text from my niece. I’d say she’s flying just fine all on her own. Look at that smile.