Flying on her own to go see her best friend E. back in the UK has been top of her 'bucket list' (who can live without one these days?) for the last eight months or so. At first Mr S. and I thought it would be a passing phase. Becoming an Olympian rower, a Michelin starred chef and the owner of a small holding in Scotland seem to all have blown over. But no.
So she spent most of her Christmas holidays behind the laptop researching ticket prices, all the while figuring out how long she would have to safe up her pocket money before she would be able to take off. She was positively shocked on finding out that 'minors' can not book plane tickets at all. Not until they are at least 16 or so. Before that - oh horror - your parents have to get involved. And we did. Of course we did. We bought her a plane ticket for her 12th birthday in January.
The last three months she has lived in anticipation, counting the days. Composing endless 'packing lists'. I just found the last one in her bedroom, every item ticked. At least I now know that she has packed '2 pairs of underpants', '1 teddy bear', '1 jumper', '1 pair of PJ's' and 'M.F.S. (Midnight Feast Stuff), as she never lets me go anywhere near her suitcase. I am just hoping that at some point during her stay she will actually get a fresh pair of knickers out and puts them on. Something she at times struggles with at home.
The last few days before the big weekend, the 12yo seems oddly calm and confident about the whole undertaking. I on the other hand don't feel at all cool and collected thinking about my precious daughter up in the air all by herself. The awful plane crash in the French Alps, which dominates the news for days on end is not helping either.
As I tug her in the night before D-day, my daughter informs me hat she has invested some of her savings into bubble gum and sweets, because 'to relax on the plane I am just going to really pamper myself'. It sure sounds like a plan! What is there to worry about?
Half an hour later I hear her calling me from her room, something she hasn't done in a long time. I find her in floods of tears. 'What if the plane crashes and I never see you and daddy again? 'And 'what if I am too scared tomorrow and then we have wasted all that money?' I get into her bed and tell her that most people would be scared before such a big adventure. And also that being scared now means that she is really preparing herself and as a consequence of that the journey will be fine. Fortunately she believes me and nods off almost immediately.
We're both up at the crack of dawn the next day. We check and double check that she has her boarding pass and passport and then we leave way too early for the airport as she 'really' does not want to be late. Miraculously there are two other girls her age at the 'unaccompanied minor desk', who are also going on a little adventure. That helps!
After filling in countless papers, I have to hand her over to an air hostess who will guide my daughter through customs and will make sure she boards the right plane. A quick hug and she is off. I wander aimlessly around the airport (you are required to stay until the plane takes off), talking to the universe, asking it to keep my daughter safe. I also end up more or less hugging my phone for the 1 hour and 15 minutes she up in the air, following the picture of her plane minute by minute until my friend in the UK sends me a picture. They've got her! Yay!
The weekend is rather uneventful on our side, but filled to the brim with fun where my daughter is. At regular intervals we receive pictures and message like 'They had fun at the swimming pool disco and have now turned themselves into Tracy and Stella who work in a beauty salon', 'Yo Lisa at Yo Sushi! Giddy with excitement, bless her' and 'The girls are bath bombing, face masking and hair curling'.
Before I know it I am back at the airport, ready to collect her. I am still following my daughter's plane on my phone, albeit a little less religious this time. All of a sudden there she is again, walking towards me with a hitherto unknown swagger in her step. My daughter has grown up fast these last 54 hours without me and it shows. She truly has conquered the world and now it is hers for the taking. I am just hoping she will allow me some time to catch up.