Ok, I didn’t actually leave my baby on a train. It was my 13-year-old and I didn’t leave him anywhere; I put him on a commuter train heading for the safety of camp in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
Still, as the train pulled away from the station, it sure felt like I placed my newborn on the train and let him go.
It was like that Subaru commercial with the dad who is giving his car keys to his older daughter but instead of a mature teenager all he sees is a little girl in the driver’s seat.
What was I thinking??
Even my husband (he of the “let’s send our kids to summer camp for eight weeks and not have any communication with them” mindset) couldn’t believe that I let our son take the train! WTF?? I thought he would see this as a huge step toward independence.
It didn’t help that I kept replaying scenes from movies over and over in my head as I drove home from the train station.
Have you seen the movie, Source Code? The Jake Gyllenhaal movie where the northbound commuter train in Chicago explodes over and over again? Yes, that scene kept popping up.
Followed very closely by the scene from the movie, Unstoppable, where Chris Pine and Denzel Washington are desperately trying to stop a train from hurtling off the edge of the train tracks as it races toward a sharp bend in the tracks. (Clearly I have to stop watching late night television).
I fretted for a while, wondering if he actually made it to camp then realized, if there really was a problem, I would have gotten a call from the counselor who meets my son and his friend at the train every morning (or at least I would have seen something on the morning news, right?).
Then it hit me: what I was most afraid of when I put him on that train is not that he would end up as the victim of some crazy Hollywood movie plot; it was that he wouldn’t need me anymore.
The more independent my “baby” gets the less he will need me…and then he will be gone.
With my 17-year-old just a year away from leaving for college (and basically gone most of the time already) my youngest is the only one I have left to take care of (unless you count my husband and the dog and my 17-year-old when he is home, but you get the point).
Letting go of my 13-year-old means just that—letting go and not knowing what will happen or where he is or what he is doing. It’s scary…
…and, yet, surprisingly easy to get used to.
Let me explain.
The first couple of days I walked him down to the platform and admonished him to stay behind the yellow line. I waited for his friend to meet him but not for the train to actually show up (I watched for that from the bridge, out of his line of sight).
By the third day I found the walk down to the platform to be unnecessary. His friend will show up, I reasoned. Besides, it’s not like he wanted to sit and chat with me while we waited.
My alarm goes off at 6:45 am and my first thought is: why can’t he just ride his bike to the train?
What a difference four days make…