Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Portland Homesick Blues

I wanna go home with the armadillo.

Jerry Jeff Walker
London Homesick Blues

Oh yesterday was a tough day. Not for me, but for Maddie. It is safe to say that after three weeks, the excitement of living in Portland and going to school at the WCI has morphed into a mixture of boredom, trepidation and homesickness.

I tell myself that heartbreaking as it may be for Valery and me, her situation is no different than any other new freshman off to college. I tell her that too, when we talk, but boy, it sure isn't easy watching her suffer. She's had to go through so many changes all at once, it is easy to understand why she is feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. Nonetheless, this difficult experience is also something that she will just have to go through, no matter how painful it is for both of us in the near term. Paying your dues.

In the long term--which is to say long after culinary school is over--she will benefit from these tough days. Of course, knowing this doesn't make it any easier when I see her sad about being away from home and frustrated with her progress in school, but it does help me keep things in perspective. This is important when I am about one mouse-click away from booking a flight for Valery to return to Portland and watch over her. No, I promise I--we--won't do that, not only because we can't afford it right now, but because we really believe that letting her tough this out is the right thing to do for her.

Why? Well, because we've spent so many years protecting her and providing for her, it seems to make sense to protect that investment by doing more of the same. However, now that she is becoming an adult, there's no better method I can think of for teaching her the skills for coping with adversity than to let her experience some actual adversity. Because the investment seems so much more valuable now, it seems terribly risky to to let her go so far so soon, but I repeat: I can't think of another way to liberate her and give her the independence she is seeking in a way that doesn't stifle that independence with rules or set her up for failure with goals that she hasn't personally selected.

I remind myself (and her) that the goals now in place are hers; she chose this path. Allowing her to succeed means allowing her to follow the path herself. Of course, if she fails, she won't have to blame us, but it this negative reasoning doesn't adequately illustrate the point. A better way to say it is, when she succeeds, she will affirm her decision-making ability and be in a position to do it again as she chooses the starting point for her career sometime next year.

Oh I suppose, given my rather grim track record, I've lost all credibility when it comes to talking about the 'right' way to raise a child, but with usual Phillipoid (new word) delusional foolishness, I am undeterred by my failures or inadequacies. In fact, I am encouraged to learn that my inabilities are actually diminished in scope by Maddie's resilience. I am impressed with her emerging ability to cope and above all, hopeful, not just because I am her Dad, but because there is every reason in the world to be so.

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