Two days ago, I kissed my oldest daughter goodbye, and sent her on a plane to India. I have watched this young woman work for over a year to raise the funds for this trip. I have supported her, planned with her, and even helped her pack. But as I stood at the airport’s security entrance and held her close, I could barely let her go.
Abigail. It means “a father’s joy.” She was conceived in desperation after our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I was devastated after losing the first baby. He had a face, and tiny hands. He had a name. I expected that everything would go as planned. But it didn’t. So as generations of other women before me have done, I silently picked up the shards of my heart and tried again, waiting…hoping…wanting.
Three months later, I was pregnant again. This time, all went well and in nine months and two days, we had a beautiful girl. Abigail.
She was a typical first child. Cautious. Orderly. A natural leader. She also had a flair for the dramatic and a very prominent stubborn streak. One day, my mother was visiting and I complained that Abby was not easily bending to my will. My mother never offered unsolicited advice. Except for this time.
“Stop trying to make Abby into who you want her to be, and help her to be who she is.”
My mind backtracked to a conversation I once had with a woodworker in Idaho. He had carved an intricate baby’s rattle from a solid piece of wood. Examining the free moving ball inside the bars that contained it, I asked him how he came up with the plans for his creations. He told me that he always studied the wood until the object showed itself to him. His carving only brought out what was already there from the beginning.
This began a new phase of parenting. Bring out the person who is already there.
And now the person who is inside of Abigail, my firstborn, my beautiful daughter, was leaving me to go to a part of the world I have only seen in books and television screens. I wanted to hold her tightly. To scream, “No! You cannot go! Stay here, close by me, where it is safe.” I wanted to again cuddle my soft pink baby in my arms, trace the curl of her cowlick with my finger and murmur sweet songs into her ear.
Instead, I breathed in deeply. I kissed both her cheeks and her head, the way I have a hundred times over the past twenty-five years. I looked deeply into her smoky eyes, said “I love you.” and let her go. My part is finished. She has become who she was meant to be.