My friend invited Phoebe to go camping with her family.
I think she expressed concern for her urban up-bringing, and the lack of green in our concrete jungle, and that camping was a necessity. I was convinced.
We made a deal with Phoebe. If she could save up a certain amount of money from her practicing money, then we would pay for the rest of her plane ticket to visit her friend and go camping. [Sidenote: my friend gave me the wrong dates for the camping trip, and I could not afford to change the ticket, so she is not actually camping, but is experiencing nature and green.]
She did it!
Thinking about the trip for almost an entire year, really motivated her to practice on the mornings when she didn't want to.
It came down to the morning of the trip. I had figured out all the details of traveling as an unaccompanied minor, and I was feeling pretty confident about the process, with a tiny bit of unease about my little one traveling alone across the US of A. I kept thinking about this time when she was a baby and she and I were together on a plane and it dipped suddenly. Her presence brought so much comfort to me as we emergency-landed and deplaned and started the trip all over again. I was hoping nothing like that happened to her on this flight.
As we drove to the airport I reminded her of how hard she had worked and how well she had saved. I told her; "you could have bought a bunch of hotdogs each week (one of her favorite treats), but instead you put the money away and saved it up." I told her how proud I was of her practicing and her saving and her being brave enough to go on the trip. She said: "Mom, I'm sort of crying, hearing you say that."
I then reminded her that if she felt any unease, or any nerves that she could say a prayer. She said: "But, I'm just going to say a prayer in my heart because I don't want to say it out loud, because that would be too embarrassing with the person sitting next to me." I replied that a prayer in heart was fine and that I had prayed that angels would attend her.
When we got to the airport, we waited in the long FULL SERVICE line, then the special services line, then the security line, with full plans to get breakfast at the airport because of all the waiting we would have to do. Instead we arrived at the gate right when they were boarding and though the map indicated there was a Dunkin Donuts right there at the gate, there was not. I tried to brainstorm what to get her for breakfast with very little time. She told me she could eat the dry cereal I had packed. I made sure her SIGG bottle was filled up with water from the fountain so she didn't have to wait for the drink service.
I was pretty horrified at myself that I hadn't gotten my child a proper breakfast just before a 6-hour flight, even though she also had a lunch packed and puh-lenty of snacks. I was even more horrified when we watched 5 sparrows descend into the water fountain for a bird bath, moments after we had filled her sigg bottle with water from that very fountain.
Two other Unaccompanied minors gathered around the desk. They were siblings, probably 13 and 14 years old. They looked a little rough around the edges and I worried about their language. (TOTALLY JUDGING I KNOW!). I introduced Phoebe to them and asked the girl, who took more interest in her than her brother, to "TAKE CARE OF MY BABY!"...they were all sitting together.
Then it was time to go. Phoebe waved and said BYE MOM! I insisted on a hug, then she turned and walked onto the plane, and didn't even glance back.