Caterpillars Growing Up

The Boy Caterpillars left today for their Dad’s house.

On a plane.

Just the two of them.

And it’s not a direct flight.

AND they are no longer “unaccompanied minors”.

I wish I could have taken pictures.  They would probably say so much more than my words will.  They had spent the night with Cookie, attempting to get all schoolwork for the break DONE, in order to be able to truly relax.  Early this morning, I woke up the littles and we headed down to Cookie’s house.  She had an early doctor’s appointment, but B10 and CW were getting dressed and immediately loaded the van with their packed bags.

They each had one checked bag, then a single backpack between the two of them (plus wallets and B10’s cell phone).  I had promised to give each of them $20, since the two flights (Atlanta to Chicago/2.5 hour layover/Chicago to Kentucky) would take all day.  As soon as Cookie got home, we loaded up the van and headed to the airport.  I had printed out their boarding passes (two copies each) and gave them each a folder (they carried their own and their brother’s boarding passes).  B10 has a state issued photo ID (it was necessary back when he took the ACT test, because they don’t have school ID cards), and we made sure he was carrying that in his wallet.

The drive down was uneventful, they listened carefully to my instructions – then fought with their younger siblings and watched Rio 2, very typical drive.  At the airport, Cookie decided it was easier to stay in the car with the littles, while I went in to the airport with the boys.

Southwest Airlines is amazing – let me say that upfront.  The cost was very reasonable, they had PLENTY of counters open, and the check-in agent actually seemed happy to be doing her job.  She was so sweet with the boys, walking them through the steps that most adults would already understand.  And even though they were too old to be unaccompanied minors, she offered me a gate pass to go to the gate with them (which, I gladly took!).  I was so proud of CW, who heard the gate number and immediately asked me for a pen – so he could write it down.  And when B10 said “I’ll remember”, CW was really polite and said “it’s my responsibility to also know for sure, and I need to write it down.”

We headed to security, where they had all lanes open and even with B10 “setting off the sensor” (and having to have the weird body scan), we still made it through security in less than 10 minutes.  I had stopped at the little shop before security and purchased them each a pack of gum for the flight.

When shopping, I lost track of B10 (hard to do when he’s over 6 feet tall).  I searched for him, and finally saw him across the open space, standing next to two young guys in Army fatigues – as I got closer, I realized that without any prompting of any sort, he had stepped over to tell them “Thank you for your service to our country. I appreciate it and I hope you have a safe and happy Christmas.”  I said nothing, but he did that for every serviceman and servicewoman we passed.

After security, at the bottom of the long escalator, we waited for the train.  I love the Atlanta Airport, even if it is huge and busy.  I love riding the train and I love how clean they keep everything.  But the boys were already giving me hugs and gently telling me they could handle it the rest of the way.  It sounds ridiculous, as I have seen them doing quite grownup things before.  I’ve heard them and watched them handle all sorts of “big kid” and “adult” situations.

But standing there, on the outside of the train, as the doors closed on the two of them, was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.  I almost cried right there.  The airport had an agent directing traffic, and she asked me if I was confused about what train I needed, since I left from standing in front of the one going to the gates, and went to stand by the one going to baggage claim/ground transportation.  I smiled (as best I could) and explained the basics of the situation and how the boys were leaving for the first time on their own to fly and change planes.

She laughed and said with a gate pass in hand, there is no way she would have left them until that plane was backing up from the gate.

I could have kept going.  I easily could have said “nope, I’m going to see you to your gate”.  Or at least “I’ll take the train with you to your concourse.”

But this is the part where I trusted them.  I trusted them to stay together, to behave, and to handle themselves.  I trusted them to be grown-up and take care of whatever situation arose.  Sometimes, walking away is the absolute best way you can show your children that you love them.

And I do love my children.

~Mummy Butterfly  )i(

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