|MOM! Would you please stop taking pictures?!?!!|
When she was a wee girl of 5,6,7,8,9- her grandmother would fly into Houston, meet up with us and she would fly back with little Maura only to repeat the process on her return. For the past two years, we've had Maura take direct flights as an unaccompanied minor. This was just about as scary as sending her off to school. I would take her into the airport, we would fill out forms in triplicate, Maura would be tagged with documents dangling from her neck and I would be given security passes to take her right to the gate. I would then turn her over to a flight attendant who would watch her on the flight in a section of seating reserved for other unaccompanied minors. At her destination on the non-stop flight, the gaggle of UA fliers would be herded by a gate attendant who would check and recheck the documents of the kids and the ID and documents of those who were listed to pick the kids up. It was all checked, double checked and other than worrying about my kid encouraging the other kids to perform 'Don't Stop Believing' as a show choir on the plane, pretty low on the worry level.
This year was to be different. This year, Maura would be flying on her own as the arrival date/time/airport she needed didn't have a non-stop flight. She would have to change planes on her own in Chicago (CHICAGO! SIN CITY!!) and make her way to Indianapolis where her grandparents would greet her. In the grander scheme of things, it shouldn't be that big of a deal. She knows the rules- like don't leave the secure area, if someone creeps you out go to a gate agent or officer but this was more about me trusting her to go out a wee bit on her own than her taking care of herself. It would be okay, I could take her to her gate and she'd only be on her own for the plane change in Chicago but I worry because that is what moms do. She's only 12 (12 and half she tells me).
As we arrived at the airport, there was absolutely NO parking. Every lot was full. My thoughts of going with her up to the gate were thrown out and it was only because of a kind police officer who allowed me to park in a handicapped space that I was able to dash in with her to watch her check in and kiss her goodbye as she entered security. I watched this gangly girl confidently approach the ticket counter. As the agent asked to see her drivers license, Maura whipped out her passport and said " I don't have a license, here's my passport. I am too short to drive". The agent smiled and asked if she was traveling alone and when Maura answered in the affirmative, reassured Maura that if she needed anything help was available. Maura smiled, gathered her bag and documents and we made our way to the security line.
"We can't go through security, We have to say goodbye here". I said to her. She looked up at me and I didn't see the confident young lady that she is, instead I saw her as the impulsive, impish 5 year old who likes to wear princess crowns and fight imaginary dragons. "I'm on my own?" she asked. "Yes. Call me when you get to the gate, call me when you get to Chicago, call me when you find your next flight at Chicago, then call me when you land and when you get to baggage...and". She stopped me. "I'll call you Mom. It will be fine. I will be fine". She gave me a hug and off she went and I thought, you will indeed be fine Maura.
It might seem like an insignificant thing, a young girl flying on her own but for me it was a milestone. She is no longer a small child but a confident, smart and capable young woman. As she walked into the line for security I realized that she is stepping out of her childhood and into young adulthood. Its a strange mix of pride and wishing for her to gather more experiences of her own and a desire to keep her close and protected because she is only 12.
That's 12 AND A HALF.