It is now just four days out until Hannah’s departure. I had a very rough day on Wednesday and ended up spending some quality time crying with Hannah. Up until this point, I’ve mostly tried to hide this sadness from her, letting it spill out alone in my bed. This letting her go is, quite possibly, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Hannah herself has been filled with much anxiety the past few days. I know what anxiety feels like–the real intense kind that wakes you up at night and puts a pit inside your stomach and throat, making it impossible to eat. That seems to be where Hannah is right now. I remember the night after my first day at the law firm where I was hired as an associate attorney. I was awake, wide awake, the entire night with what I can only describe as red ants of anxiety marching through my blood stream. I had graduated at the top of my law school class. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I realized on that first day of work that I didn’t know a thing. They don’t actually teach you how to practice law in law school–they teach you, supposedly, “how to think like a lawyer,” which doesn’t do a darn thing for you when you actually have to answer interrogatories or prepare for a deposition or learn how to balance the 100 new client files that have been dumped on your desk. I imagine that this going to Japan is a little like going into the world of practicing law. It will be a whole new culture, with new rules, strange new foods, and even different ways to bathe and sleep. But how can Hannah adequately cope with that now? All she can really understand is that she is leaving everything she’s ever known, armed only with a suitcase and about six months of basic training in the Japanese language.
Last night, Hannah commented that she wanted to bring the cat, Olive, with her. Hannah isn’t even that close to Olive and doesn’t particularly care for the work that comes with pets. I said, “You’d really want to bring Olive.” She said, “Yes, then I’d have someone going through the experience with me . . . instead of just having inanimate objects from home.” Chris thinks it is very good and healthy that Hannah is dealing with these fears now. For me, as her mother, it is quite difficult to watch Hannah struggle. Wouldn’t it be easier if she was just heading out the door, smiling (haven’t seen her smile in days), red-faced with excitement?
I do remember when Hannah was in daycare and even her early school days. She was always perfectly behaved at both places and never gave anyone trouble. She’d save all of her acting out for the end of the day. Ethan did this too, to a certain extent. I always felt gratified that my kids would save all of that emotion for me. Sure, it would have been easier had that all occurred while they were away from me and I would just get perfect angels at day’s end. But I always knew that they felt secure with me–secure enough to blow off steam in my presence. Even in these past few days, Hannah has revealed deep things to me about her past school year, about the things that her peers were engaging in and the many self-doubts she had as she moved away from that crowd to stay true to her own ideals. It proved to be a very lonely place for this very social girl. She learned a ton about spending time by herself and also about reaching out to new avenues for friends. Indeed, Hannah managed to come out of the year with three new friends who were seniors. (She also came out of the year, the proud mama must add, with a 4.00 average). Clearly these girls were in a more mature place in their lives than Hannah’s peers. I was very proud of how Hannah handled getting through this past year, her sophomore year. I know that she will do equally well once in Japan; adjusting to her host families, her new school, and the culture. Still, my mother’s heart aches for her in these days she is preparing to leave.
She used to tell her dad and I that she didn’t want to go to daycare somedays, cause she was all “by her lone.” Now she is setting out on a journey all by her lone. Back when Hannah first decided that a student exchange was a goal for her, I didn’t truly anticipate how hard this would be. I just reminded others of how independent Hannah has always been. It is a different scenario, however, to have this departure so imminent–much scarier indeed and much more laced with self-doubt, even on my part (am I doing the right thing here by allowing her to go?). Yet, I still really believe in the value of this exchange and the wonderful growth it will bring to Hannah. As a parent, I cannot go through this year with Hannah. It will be one of the first things she’s ever accomplished completely separate from me.
Hannah, if you ever read this, “to the moon and back–to the moon and back.”