“And when the kids are old enough, we’re gonna teach them to fly…”
Thank you, Dave Matthews.
This song was playing as I watched Ben and his friend, a couple years ago, standing tall and carrying their backpacks as they walked slowly away toward the Amtrak train, getting ready to board for a long journey to Not Back To School Camp together. Granted, at that point in their lives, it was only a train, not a plane, but they were definitely learning to fly in the independent, leaving-the-nest sense of things. And my friend, Laura, and I were learning to let them go.
That was the beginning of some amazing travel experiences for each of them, and it’s been great to watch the accompanying growth, confidence, and maturation. Since then, Ben has taken several trips by train or bus to and from that same Oregon camp. He has flown by himself or with friends by plane from Seattle to Phoenix, Reno, and Kansas City, and has enjoyed road trips through Washington, Oregon, and California. Given these travels, he has had the chance to see the Grand Canyon, experience a wilderness camp in California, backpack in Desolation Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada, explore new cities, and enjoy many interesting landscapes. He’s been able to try new things, find mentors, and nurture many friendships, both old and new.
During the week of Thanksgiving this past year, Ben had the chance to visit friends in Kansas City, Missouri for a NBTSC camper reunion. There were several friends coming in from many different states and descending upon the homes of two welcoming families for a big Thanksgiving feast and week-long gathering. He really wanted to go, and thought carefully about if it would be possible, related to both costs of travel as well as taking time off work.
Whenever he has had the opportunity for an adventure like this, we’ve tried to figure out ways to help him make it happen. In this instance, at first I thought it would be nice to have him home during Thanksgiving, but I also knew that as he grows older, and as his life gets busier with more commitments like work and studies, he’ll want to venture out on his own during times like this when his friends are also available. So I realized this was one of those opportunities, and started brainstorming with him about how to make it work.
One of his first hurdles was needing to take a little time off work…during a holiday…as a courtesy clerk at a grocery store. No small task. He has been working at PCC Natural Markets since last summer, and really loves it. He gets along quite well with the staff, is flexible with his schedule, and frequently offers to cover other people’s shifts. He started early with his request for time off, knowing it might take a while for his manager to make this kind of scheduling decision. Ben reassured him that he would have a good deal of time in December to work extra shifts and cover for other people’s needs for time off then. Ben had to be quite patient while waiting for an answer, but his manager likes him and was able to make it work. Lucky kid.
Since he’s been working for a while now, he had the money he needed to buy a plane ticket, however I knew he was also thinking about various building projects he was saving money for as well. We told him we’d be willing to contribute a bit, and this was helpful when he realized that tickets would cost more depending on the holiday dates he traveled. I like helping him with these kinds of adventures when we can afford it, because I know how exciting and valuable they can be for him. It’s also fun when he comes back home, telling us about people he’s met, places he’s explored, or new observations he’s made. This time, one cool thing he noticed was how the architecture of the various homes there was quite different. It’s a small thing, but it makes his world, and ours, bigger.
This is how it happens. One trip, one new adventure, one opportunity at a time, and soon he’ll be grown, off on his own, living his own independent life. I’m glad it doesn’t happen all at once, but gradually, so I have time to get used to it. I’m excited for him, and happy I get to watch the process.