As a father, I frequently come across situations that are very difficult to deal with.
When Roni was born, coming home from the hospital without her was very difficult. Because of some breathing problems, she spent her first 12 days in the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit). To see her there with all her tubes and wires and not be able to do anything to help her was very, very difficult.
Then there was the time when Roni was two years old. She was just learning how to use her fingers for counting, holding up her index finger to indicate the number one. One day I walked into her room to find her extending both of her middle fingers at me. She excitedly exclaimed, "Look, Daddy! Here's two different number ones!" I had to fight hard to keep from laughing. It was very, very difficult.
(Why fight so hard to keep from laughing at that? Even though it was totally innocent, if I encourage her by laughing, she'd 'flip the bird' to everyone she sees in order to get them to laugh. Before you know it she'd be a YouTube sensation known as the "Bird-Flipping Little Girl." That would lead to starring in a sitcom with Courtney Cox and/or Tony Danza as the precocious, smart-mouthed little girl. And then, before you know it, she'd turn out like the Olsen twins or Lindsay Lohan. And, although the money would be nice, I couldn't do that to my sweet daughter. So, I can't laugh at her flipping me the bird, no matter how very difficult it might be.)
But, I've found something that is going to be even more difficult to deal with than those things: Letting go.
A couple of months ago, we went as a family for Roni's second dentist appointment. The first time she went, I was with her the whole time. This time it would be different. Roni would be by herself. The Wife had an appointment of her own at the same time, so she was down the hall in a room of her own. Meanwhile, I was out in the lobby trying to keep Buzz entertained and/or trying to keep Buzz from destroying the lobby.
When they were finished with Roni, they brought her out to me. Roni was very excited, and she started telling me about her dentist adventure. "Nina and I watched a movie! And then we something-something-something sugar-bugs something-something-something!!!" She was incredibly enthusiastic about what she was telling me, but I had no idea what she was saying.
And it was then that it hit me: I wasn't going to always know what she was doing.
Up to this point in her life, either I, The Wife, Aunt Kimmie, Grammy, or PopPop have always been there with her to experience everything that Roni experiences. It's not always going to be like that. And I don't know how I'm going to handle it.
Since she was born, one of the top priorities in my life has been to keep her safe. I have to make sure she doesn't do anything that will hurt herself. I have to make sure that other people don't hurt her in any way. I have to make sure she is in situations where things can't hurt her. But soon, I won't be able to control those situations anymore. And it scares me.
Our house is right across the street from a school bus stop. Occasionally I'll glance out the window, see the kids lined up waiting for the bus, and I'll recognize some of the kids that The Wife and I used to teach in nursery. (One of the "fun" things about the Mormon church is that you "volunteer" for church assignments. For a while, The Wife and I were asked to "teach" in the nursery, which basically means wrangling all the kids ranging in age from 18 months to three years.)
I'll see one of our old nursery kids and think, "It seems like just the other day when that kid couldn't drink from a disposable dixie cup without spilling all over himself, and now they're letting him stand at the bus stop without adult supervision? How is this possible?" I guess at some point you have to let go a little bit.
What makes this even more scary with Roni is her nut allergy. Roni is deathly allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. So much so that the doctor said as little as one-eighth of a peanut could cause a reaction that could kill her. If he was trying to scare us, it worked. (Especially with those italicized words.)
We are very vigilant about what food we bring into our house, reading the labels of everything. (And I do mean "everything." One time I brought home some shredded cheddar cheese. Luckily, The Wife checked the label and saw that it said it "may contain traces of peanuts of tree nuts." Who would have ever thought shredded cheese might have nuts in it?)
So, the thought of sending Roni off to school is terrifying. One errant peanut butter sandwich and....
This is going to be very, very, very difficult.
So, how will I be able to let her go? Well, first I'll have to realize that I am not the first parent in the world who loves and worries about his kid. (It seems to me that, although other parents love their kids, they can't possibly love their kids as much as I love mine.) (But, I'm sure I'm not the only parent who thinks this way.)
Nor will I be the first parent to have to deal with a child with allergies. Yes, it will be scary, but we'll just have to educate the people she'll be around about her allergy. If that means we're going to be annoying parents, so be it. I'd rather be annoying than careless.
And then, we need to teach Roni as best we can. We have to make every situation she might find herself in as safe as we possibly can, then trust her to do what's right.
Letting her go is going to be very, very difficult. But, eventually we have to let the little birds fly, don't we? (And if I can keep myself from laughing when my little girl flips me off, I can do anything, right?)