So there we were with a pink and green Welcome Home Mylar balloon and a homemade Welcome Home sign at JFK Airport’s Terminal 4. Hard to believe that just 9 days ago Jules boarded a plane for Paris with 8 of her classmates. She was excited yet I suspect nervous. On the other hand, we were nervous yet I suspect excited on the inside. When it was time to say goodbye I hugged the stuffing out of Jules and realized that was it. Every day of our life together had been preparing us for that moment. Julia was heading off on her second big solo adventure.
All of the lessons learned in school and in our home were with Julia. Would she remember what we talked about…Be aware of your surroundings…trust your gut instincts…be polite to people…treat people the way you want to be treated…Would her “Scooby Senses” kick in while in a crowded space? I realized I still locked in a bear hug with Julia when I heard “Mom it is time for us to go”. I watched as she walked towards the security line and disappeared into the crowd.
The rest of the night was a blur. Somehow, I fell asleep despite the sheer panic I was feeling on the inside. On the outside, I was in “flight attendant mode”. Maybe you do it too…you enter into the “all will be well” mode and put on a sunshine and lollipops appearance. Never let them see you sweat. Right before I feel asleep I remembered the first night we brought Jules home from the hospital. I was a worried nut – worried that I would do the wrong thing. Julia was a wise kid from day one. She figured things out quickly and grew to be a VERY active girl with an extremely creative mind. Certain days were more…er…challenging…(yes challenging) than others and made me question my path as a parent and some days a person. I would think, “Was I being too harsh? Not harsh enough? By today’s standards, I am from the old-fashioned world in that I believe in being a parent and not a friend first. I like being old school. Anyway, the years went by and each year with Julia I would think, “When does this get easier? It does get easier, right?” Many nights I would be awake wondering what Julia would be like as an adult. Would she be like me? Would she handle things like Ernie in a very direct and matter of fact matter?
Day 4 into Julia’s grip and it hits me – our Princess is on the trip of a lifetime. She was literally off to see the world. Paris and five other cities and Monaco. She would arrive home a new person. More decisive. More mature. More independent. In two years, we will be packing up the car for college. That will be the ultimate test of how well have your prepared your child for the world. I digress. I cannot go there yet. This 9-day trip was enough for now.
I am standing at the gate waiting. All of a sudden, I was back at the steps of the preschool waiting for the kids to exit. It seemed like yesterday. I waited forever for these high school days. Suddenly I heard Jake say “There’s Julia!” I think he was actually excited to see her, which is crazy because these two are rarely excited to even exist in the same household. I looked up and saw our 16-year-old coming towards us pulling her suitcase behind her and wearing her fave Hamilton cap. She was smiling so big. I have not seen the same smile since I brought her to the Hannah Montana concert in 2007.
We all hugged and welcomed our girl back home. I tried to fight back the tears but decided not to. One the way out of the terminal, Jules held my hand and said “Mom I had the best time. Thanks for letting me go.” That’s when it hit me…No Jules…thank YOU for letting me let you go.” Here’s hoping you have many more amazing opportunities ahead of you. You earned your place on this trip and in what lies ahead. Boy Voyage Jules. The world awaits.