The Challenges of Flying Solo

So on Friday evening, my twin daughters decided to come home for the weekend. We were very excited to see them and since we all love Japanese food, I decided to make reservations at Roka, their favourite restaurant to celebrate.  This excitement was short lived because I soon discovered that the girls were only coming home to attend their friends birthday party on Saturday night and to see other friends on Friday night.  They had already organised their own activities which completely revolved around catching up with all their old school friends.

I was a little disappointed that we were not going to be able to spend much time with them but since all their friends were really wonderful young people, we were happy to play second fiddle… Their plan was to spend Friday night with their friends in London and come home on Saturday morning.

However on Saturday morning I received one of those calls that every parent dreads… ‘Mum, Katherine has just had a seizure… we are in the ambulance now… she is confused and cannot tell me what day it is or anything’

I was shocked… after gathering as much information as possible from Rebecca it was revealed that Katherine had had a tonic clonic seizure which was triggered by sleep deprivation and strobe lighting. I could not believe that after her experience in the summer, she had endangered herself like this again…

Last summer, the girls went to Cyprus with all their friends to celebrate the end of their exams and the completion of their time at school. This was the first time they were allowed to go on an unsupervised holiday. Although I was nervous about their trip, I took comfort in the fact that I knew and liked all their friends.

The day they were due to return home, I had a call from Rebecca discussing their flight details. Half an hour later, I had a hysterical Rebecca on the phone… ‘Mum, Katherine just had an epileptic seizure… she is not responding at all, she is completely blank…’ Can you imagine how I felt? My daughters were in a foreign country , one was in danger and I was not there to help them. I was utterly distraught… The rest of the day was a blur. I started to blame myself for allowing them to go.

After I got over the initial shock, I started asking… ‘have you called an ambulance?  has she taken any illegal substances? what did you do last night’. Intuitively I knew she wouldn’t have taken any illegal substances, but I had to ask the question, because how many times do you hear of children doing something their parents could have never imagined them doing? Peer pressure can be very powerful and we have to hope that our children are strong enough to say NO. I just needed to be sure.

Within half an hour of speaking to my daughter I had booked a flight to Cyprus. My husband did not want to authorise the trip because he wanted to protect them from the unknown, they were our babies and he did not want them to fly too far from the nest. I persuaded him to allow them to go because we had to allow them to leave the nest and fly solo eventually.

When they are babies, you immerse them in your arms and swaddle them with your love. As they grow you anticipate and celebrate every milestone with so much love and pride. If they stumble or fall, you pick them up and kiss them better. Our children are our world and everything revolves around them. But the best thing in the world- is that they are giving you that unconditional love, with every smile, with every cuddle, with every I love you Mummy/Daddy, and every time you hear the phrase ‘you are the best Mummy/Daddy in the world.’ ‘The Nest’ was made for and from this period in our lives. I am sure this period resonates with all of you guys doesn’t it?

However, this is followed by the B.O.K stage (Book of knowledge) They know everything, you don’t understand anything, your years and wisdom are waisted on them. The adoration slows and we become the enemy. Teenagers think they are invincible.  We can only hope that the values we taught them will guide their path and illuminate their way. Eventually they will realise that we only want the best for them. It is really hard to let them make their own mistakes. If we are absolutely honest, we probably made the same mistakes too. So although we want to pave the way for them and iron out all the bumps and potholes along the way… we cannot. We have to let them fly solo and navigate their own way. They have to figure out how to avoid the bumps and find a safe route to their destinations. As parents we can only make them realise that their are consequences for their actions.

Katherine spent three days in hospital in Cyprus. Although I was disappointed with her because she did not behave responsibly, I was also very proud of her at the same time. Before I had arrived in Cyprus, the doctors had tried to give her medication for her seizure. She did not recognise the medication so she kept it in her mouth and hid it until they left the room. She kept all the tablets in a safe place and gave them to me when I arrived. I researched the tablets and was absolutely horrified with what I found. This medication had a long list of adverse side effects which even included suicidal tendencies, it was only supposed to be used in severe cases, it was not recommend for use in teenagers. I was so pleased that she was so perceptive.

Katherine was very apologetic and assured me that this was a good lesson to learn before she went off to university. I was comforted by the fact that she had recognised the error of her ways. Now you can understand why I had mixed emotions about her hospital admission this weekend.  I was really convinced that after her experience in Cyprus she had learnt her lesson. I was more disappointed then angry, she had let her self down and endangered herself and her wellbeing in the process. Today I gave her a quote by Stephen Luke, ‘You are the CEO of your own life, start making executive decisions today.’

As parents, we will always be there for them but we cannot live their lives and we have to allow them to fly. We can give them the tools to navigate their way through this maze called life. But it is the twist, turns and the directions they choose to take which will determine the outcome.

We can teach them to fly but they have to choose the destination.

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