Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wings to Fly

I watched from a distance as Emma handed her passport and boarding pass to the security agent, a smile on her face and a feeling of excitement enveloping her.

Minutes later, with both documents safely tucked away, she cleared the security checkpoint and escaped out of my sight - a 15-year-old who suddenly looked much older and more confident as she prepared for her first international flight.

She was departing for a country - Japan - that I have never visited nor probably will in my lifetime.

By Emma's side - as she has been for much of the past decade - was her friend Hailey, a young lady who she befriended in kindergarten and who has remained a loyal friend ever since.

They were joined on their 11-day educational journey by a score of other students from Hall-Dale High School, their Japanese teacher, the school's principal and his wife.

Maybe Missy and I should have been more emotional - more fearful, perhaps - about sending our oldest child on her first excursion without us. To a country more than 6,600 miles away, no less, and one for which she has had only one year of classroom instruction on the language and culture.

Even if there was a "Parenting for Dummies" guidebook that we could refer to, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have a chapter on sending your teenage daughter from her small, rural town in Maine to a major metropolis like Tokyo and points beyond.

What we felt instead, however - overwhelmingly so - was that this was an adventure that could not be missed.

Sponsored and paid for by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan to increase the number of overseas visitors to the country and promote the nation’s strengths and attractiveness, the trip through the KAKEHASHI Project was made possible, in part, thanks to Hall-Dale's long history of international exchange and the work of its Japanese teacher, Naoto Kobayashi.

The financial requirements to families included passport costs, spending money and items needed for the trip, including gifts for the host families the students will stay with during their time in Japan. While not insignificant, the expense was a "drop in the bucket" compared to the true cost of transportation, lodging, meals and transportation in-country.

The return on investment...priceless!

It's safe to say that Emma and her fellow students will be different people when they return from their amazing journey. They will have a much broader world view than what they had when they left their small towns and school community just a day ago - an appreciation of another country's history, culture, people, language and way of life.

The lessons they learn and the experiences they have over the next 10 days, likely, will influence some of the decisions and choices they make throughout their lives. And they will be better people for the opportunity.

As parents, we strive to keep our children healthy and safe, to support learning from infancy through adolescence and give them the tools they will need to make good choices as they progress toward adulthood.

We nurture them, support and encourage them and help them develop the positive qualities that will carry them far in life. And then, like a mother bird with her young, we nudge them out of the nest, confident that the support we have provided over many years will allow them to fly on their own.

Emma and her fellow "birds" got their nudge yesterday.

After surviving a nearly five-hour delay in the Portland International Jetport, a frantic, full-on running, connection at JFK and then a 13+ hour flight from New York to Tokyo, a group photo posted on Facebook this evening showed plenty of smiling faces among a crew that must be incredibly exhausted.

Yes, they have received their first nudge. And it should be apparent to all of the anxious parents perusing Facebook tonight that individually and collectively, these young people have the wings to fly on their own.  


  1. It's so amazing thinking of "little" Emma so far away but how exciting!

  2. My Google Analytics show that 10 people in Latvia viewed this post today. Who knew I had a following in Latvia?