Robyn's only 20 -- old enough to make her own decisions, young enough to take on the world without trepidation. She's the baby in our family, and Dad has raised her on his own for the last 10 years. Their relationship is much stronger and deeper, I think, than the one my brother and I share with Dad; their battles are much more intense, of course, but their rapport is remarkable. Truth be told, I think they're best friends, which is why this had to be the most difficult thing Dad's ever done. But, knowing how much this trip has meant to his daughter -- to her education, to her spirit, to her development of an adult identity -- he allowed her to go, to experience life in an unknown, dangerous, poverty-stricken, civil-war-torn country. He let her go on the adventure of her life, knowing that he would suffer extreme anxiety each day until she returns safely.
When I think about it, I am awed. I have a hard time leaving my son at his church daycare each morning; the idea of watching him board a plane for a faraway land is unfathomable. Yet this is not the first time I've seen my dad wave goodbye to one of his children. He hugged me goodbye at the airport more than once -- first to Kiev, Ukraine, for a two-week school trip; then to Moscow, Russia, for a month-long study-abroad trip; and another time for a three-month stint in Glasgow, Scotland. But these were all relatively safe, stable countries. The biggest challenges I faced were cockroaches in my room in Moscow and heroine addicts at the bus stop in Glasgow. In Sierra Leone, just drinking the water can kill a person (we won't get into the bugs, the snakes, the disease, or the humans wielding machetes).
I know this is our ultimate goal as parents, to raise our children steadfastly and securely enough that they dare to venture out on their own, whether to soccer practice or college or Africa. I'm so proud of my father, for his bravery in this challenging time, but mostly for his parenting. He has raised a brilliant, self-assured, adventurous young woman. Robyn's not afraid to go so far away because she knows what she has to come home to. Of course Dad never gives himself any credit, but my husband and I look to his example each day as we raise our little one. While I pray that I never have to be so brave as this, I hope that if the day ever comes, my son will have strong wings, too.