It's been 175 days since I drove off and left Jordan at the University of Chicago.
You might think it strange that I keep track of such details. This was, however, the child I aged in months up until kindergarten.
"How old is your daughter?"
"Well next week, she'll be 62 months old."
This was the child who I grew up with. She was the one who changed my whole life. She was there when I was stupid and fed her too much until her head spun around and breast milk flew from her mouth like the Exorcist.
She was the one who put up with my crazy 20's when I was still trying to figure out who the heck I was supposed to be. She ate green bean casserole as an entire meal and didn't complain.
She was the one who has supported me through my 30's as I attempted to raise the others to be as great as her.
She is there for me. And I am here for her.
I'm sure there are those of you out there who would think I'm too lenient a parent to her. She's driving to California with friends this summer. She's going to Chicago alone this summer to meet up with friends for a 3 day music festival. Think Woodstock?
One of the lessons I have learned by parenting her is that you have to give them some space, and they will always want to come back to you. If you make known your expectations for behavior, they will strive to meet that expectation. Part of that expectation is that everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. No one is perfect.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that inherent mistrust leads to misbehavior. Kids are going to screw up. It's a given. But when it's assumed that they are misbehaving, well... they might as well do whatever it is you think they're doing anyway.
I'm sure Jordan has screwed up plenty. Just like I did. (OK, probably not as bad as I did.) But she has always been able to tell me whatever she's doing, so it never seems like a screw up because it isn't a secret. We always saw it as an educational opportunity and insight into how to improve decision making in the future.
The ability to have your kids tell you what they're up to gets you so much more information than sneaking around and trying to catch them in the lie. And it builds trust. And having the trust of a teenager is a very important thing.
That's not to say these past 175 days haven't been so difficult. It's so hard to let go. It's so hard to not see her everyday. It's so hard to worry if she's safe in the big city; if she's making wise choices for herself. I can feel the tears welling up just talking about it. But you have to allow them to grow up and make their own decisions.
You have to learn to guide them without pushing them around.
You have to learn to listen more than you lecture.
You have to learn to judge less and trust more.
Trust grows more with love and nurturing then it does with intimidation.
And that, my friends, is what the past 175 days has taught me.