taking flight

When the children’s choir decided they’d be going to Peru for their trip this summer, my older son was bummed they’d only be staying two weeks. And then I said, “You know, you could just stay longer yourself, if you want.”

His mouth dropped. “Are you serious? You’d let me do that?”

“Sure,” I said. “If you’re going to spend all that money, you might as well make it count for something.”

Plans were made, money earned, a return ticket—five weeks after the rest of the choir returns home—purchased, and, as of this morning, our son is in Peru! He’ll spend the first couple weeks in Cusco with the choir (Machu Picchu is on the agenda, lucky kids), but after that, his plans are sketchy. There will be a couple weeks deep in the jungle building a farm (or something) with a North American family who has been living there for years. After that he’ll head to Lake Titicaca, then Nazca where he hopes to snow(sand)board on the dunes, and then back to Cusco where he’ll probably do a homestay with a local family.

Of course, all of this is subject to change, dependent on mood, weather, opportunity, connections, and finances.

“Just check in with us before you set out for a new location and then again when you arrive,” I told him. Peru is huge and the bus rides long—a general sense of his whereabouts would be nice.

Some people think we’re crazy for letting our 17-year-old loose in a foreign land all on his own, and it does feel a little bit like casting your child into the wilderness to see if he can survive. Like one of those go-kill-a-bear-and-prove-you’re-a-man tests. But I’m not really worried about him. (Okay, so I am a little worried….) Mostly, though, I’m just (outrageously) excited to hear his stories.

For a few days there, I was filled to the brim with sadness. It felt like if I made any sudden movement, the tears would slosh out of my eyes. For nearly two decades we’ve been building a family and now begins the leaving.


I wouldn’t want this any differently, of course. Children are meant to leave. I want them to leave.
But why is it that, just at the moment they turn into interesting, useful, witty, enjoyable people, they just up and go? I haven’t even fully recovered from the exhaustion of the early years, and bam, it’s over. How cruel.

Oh, and guess what. All those cliches—you blink and it’s over, time flies—are true. How annoying is that? (They are also complete bull because those were some excruciatingly slow years, but still…)

At the send off, I got to talking with one of the other parents. “I just hope he doesn’t do anything stupid,” I said, swiping at my eyes under my sunglasses.

“He has a good head on his shoulders,” the dad said. “He’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know. He can be pretty stupid sometimes.”

“Aren’t we all?” He laughed, and then added. “I bet if he does something stupid, he’ll make the appropriate adjustments pretty quick.”

Here’s to hoping!

Our son Skyped us from the airport last night. “The wi-fi here is super fast so I had to use it,” he explained.

My husband and I sat side-by-side, hungry for news and stories (of which there were disappointingly few—just a bunch of goofy, up-close faces and blurry shots of kids milling around).

Then this morning, an email: “Hey! Just arrived in Lima. Got to sit in the very last seat that didn’t lean back. It was great.”

And he’s off!

This same time, years previous: spinach dip, the business of belonging, Greek cucumber and tomato salad, sheet shortcake, saucy cilantro, brown butter noodles with ham.


  • Rachelle

    All time seems fast when you're looking back at the end of it, I guess. My son is only 3 and sometimes the days seem so long, but when I look back and realise it's already been three years, it seems like it went by so fast!

  • Deena

    My brother and SIL are in Peru now as well, visiting the missions where they send money. They leave for Cusco tonight on a long bus ride. I am sure your son will have a wonderful trip!

  • Mavis

    He will do fine… and probably something stupid, but I agree, he'll be fine. 😉 HOW EXCITING!!!!!! Also, it was nice to get a glimpse of someone else's son who I recognize in the photo too. I'm so excited for him and the adventures to follow. Keep us posted.

  • Margo

    oh you guys!!! What a fabulous opportunity for him – and you are wonderful parents to just embrace it and let him go. I got teary for this, for what parents go through – heck, families go through! I was at G's 5th-grade graduation yesterday teasing one of the other parents for making a big deal out of it when suddenly, yes, I got all reflective and sad at the passing of time and the adults-in-the-making who are my kids.

    Wish I could give you a squeeze and we could howl together about the joys and pain of parenting.



    Jenna Sue just went to Cusco recently and wrote about it on her blog. She's currently traveling in that area of the world and has several posts about the surrounding area. You should check them out and see if there's anything that might interest your son.
    How cool is it that you're letting him stay!!! I would be so scared to wander by myself in a foreign country. I hope its an amazing experience for him!

  • Lisa

    Amazing!! I love getting a peek at how it will be to parent bigger kids, through your writing. It's never patronizing but somehow just what I need to love right now a little more AND trust in the slow unfolding of who my kids are becoming.

    Also, I spent the summer after college working in Peru. It's very dear to me!

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