Unaccompanied Minor

Monday we took our daughter to the airport to fly to Guatemala on a mission trip. ALONE. Her first mission trip. Her first time flying alone.

We didn’t even let our kids do sleepovers until they were in the fourth grade. We didn’t allow them to watch PG movies until they were nine, and PG-13 movies until they actually WERE 13. Now we’re letting our daughter travel to a tiny Central American country. By herself!

Logically, I know she’s 17-1/2 years old. I know she’ll be a senior in high school next year, and after that she’ll head off to college and onto new adventures of her own. Logically, I knew I was going to miss her.

But I think, without realizing it, I’d been suppressing certain thoughts and feelings. And they all bubbled to the surface when we checked her in at the airport and I discovered that I would not be permitted to accompany her to the gate and onto the plane.

My hubby flies a lot for work, so he’s got some fancy schmancy card that allows him (& us when we travel with him) to sail through shorter check-in lines, and sit in comfy clubs nibbling on snacks and sipping ice-cold beverages, while the regular non-fancy-schmancy-card folk have to herd like sheep through endlessly long lines and stuff.

So once we’d checked her in, my hubby confidently requested guest passes for me, our son, and himself, so we could accompany our “unaccompanied minor” through the airport.

“Sorry, no.” we were told. “We can allow only one adult through.”


“But we have a fancy schmancy card! And she’s an unaccompanied minor traveling far, far away, to a scary place for TWO REALLY, REALLY LONG WEEKS.”

“Sorry, no.”

We spoke to a manager. We carefully re-explained the situation.

“Sorry, no.” (Yeesh! Did these people take Jim Fay’s “Love & Logic” parenting classes or what?!)

“You’ll have to say good-bye here,” I was told.

It wasn’t until that very moment that I realized how precarious my emotions really were. I warned them that if they didn’t let me through I’d throw a tantrum. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t believe me. I burst into tears. But those cruel, heartless airport personnel didn’t care! Nope. They made me say good-bye right at the entrance of the BIG, STUPID airport.

I had to stand off to the side, like the shunned, while she moved with her dad through the security check and then ultimately disappeared from my sight. Swallowed up by the crowd.

I felt incredibly deflated.

My son could have accompanied his sister, since he’s a “minor” too, and therefore not considered a security threat like my five-foot-tall self was I suppose. But he sweetly offered to sit with me, trying to entertain me with his cool iPod Touch games for an hour while I pouted. As I sat there wallowing in self pity, I felt even worse when I realized this is only a taste of what it will be like just one year from now.

I remember somebody once telling me that God made kids grow into teenagers so that by the time they leave home you’re ready for them to leave home.

But I confess, so far it’s not workin’ for me. I like hanging out with my teens. When I think about Ashleigh going off to college, it’s going to leave a really big hole that I can’t imagine filling right now. And when it’s Joshua’s turn…oi! I can’t even go there!

I know this is the whole point behind raising these kids we’ve been blessed with. Helping them to have the confidence to step out and carve their own special niche in the world. But when that time really comes, I now have no doubt; it’s going to be incredibly hard to…say good-bye.

Image by: The Shane H

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