A rather hilarious situation occurred this morning. I received an email from a good friend in the States. She mentioned her daughter (perhaps eight or nine years old) has become very timid about doing things on her own, and shy about being in places or around people she does not know. Some of this has to do with all the “safety” talks she is getting at school, which scare her silly with their insidious perpetration of bogeyman mythology (material for a later blog post). The other part of her problem stems, in her daughter’s opinion, from a trip she took last summer with her father and younger sister to New York. She was so overwhelmed by the crowds and noise that she was unable to enjoy the trip, terrified that she might get lost.
I was formulating an email to this dear friend in the States, along the lines of “how do we teach our girls to become independent, confident, strong adventures”, when I remembered a trip I had taken with my daughter to London about a year and a half ago (she was nine years old at the time). I asked my daughter her opinion about what my friend’s daughter experienced when she was in New York in comparison to her (my daughter’s) experience in London. (My heavens, imagine us country pumpkins raising daughters who travel to NYC and London at such an early age? Sorry, digressing).
Back in London a year and a half ago… When we arrived at the airport, late evening, we had to take a long train ride into the centre of the city and then walk to my friends’ house, where we were going to stay. As we were waiting for the train to arrive at the airport station, my daughter began to cry because it was all so strange, there were so many people, and it was dark (way past her bedtime), and… it was all too much.
Trying to show her that she didn’t have to worry because, hey, she was with her mom and a world traveller to boot, we had a discussion, which didn’t really seem to help, but at least calmed her to the point that she stopped crying. By the end of the journey (five days later), she had had such a Good Time, that she said she wanted to move to London when she grew up and study there in the university. Boy, halleluiah, my girl the adventurer… I was so proud of her for making that giant leap of faith over just a few days, and so smug about my mothering/guiding abilities that I decided to forego the normal means of air travel back home to Germany, and flew home under my own wings instead.
So, you’re asking yourself, where this story is leading to? As well you might. We are back in the living room this morning. I am asking my daughter what happened during the trip which changed the adventure from being scary to being fun and something she wanted to go on forever. She contemplated the question for a few minutes. I was thinking she would say something along the lines of “you gave me such a feeling of security”, or maybe “together we can rip trees out of the ground, climb any mountains”… yes, fishing for compliments. Instead, she said, “I think it was because I realised that despite the fact that you were lost all the time, we always managed to get to where we wanted to go. You would ask all sort of people (strangers) for directions (admittedly I can’t read maps) and the people were so friendly, and so helpful, and we had such interesting conversations, that I realised being lost can be a lot of fun”. Talk about out of the mouths of babes. Gosh, I am so proud of my daughter, but I am not longer feeling the least smug. No, rather, I feel so humbled to have such a smart daughter.