I always did my best to raise my daughters, 19 and 16 at the time of writing, to be independent and strong. My eldest, Chloe, was always pushing the envelope as a kid.
She loved to climb to the highest money bars or do the meanest skateboard tricks. She was also a dedicated basketball player in high school.
This all sounds great, except for the many trips to the ER due to concussions and other injuries.
There came a point where I stopped attending her basketball games because watching her get hurt wasn’t doing it for me.
Chloe has also always loved to travel. Having multicultural roots, she’s had the opportunity to visit extended family in her country of birth, Spain, while we lived in Florida.
She did her first trip as an unaccompanied minor at 9 years old and loved it. I somehow knew that by allowing her to go on that month-long trip, I was giving her license to feel comfortable on her own.
We’d already traveled together many times, and that was her first solo adventure, which got her hooked.
Her father and I separated when she was 7 and her sister was 5. This means that we all had to get used to spending time apart. We figured out a joint custody arrangement that allowed the girls to enjoy both parents.
It also meant that when the girls were 8 and 6 I spent my first Christmas without them. I allowed them to go to Spain for two weeks or more, to visit family with their dad. Of course, I missed them terribly, but I had no doubts when I said yes to them expanding their horizons at such a young age.
Chloe went on to travel alone many more times, back to Spain and also to visit my sister Laura, her godmother, who lives in California. And throughout those visits, Chloe fell in love with the San Francisco Bay Area. So much, that she decided that when she turned 18, she would move there.
And when the time came, leave she did.
I thought I was ready for my 18-year- old to fly the coop
I thought I was prepared … All those years of giving her time and space to explore herself and the world. I thought I would be ok with it.
But when she left, I cried, and cried and cried some more.
Only a day later, I talked about it in a YouTube vlog, which makes me appear way more collected than I really was:
Well, it’s been a year and a half now, and a lot has happened since then.
Chloe has traveled the world, mostly on her own dime. She made money as a nanny and was invited by her main family to travel with them. Thanks to that she spent two Christmases ago in Breckenridge, Colorado, taking care of 3 boys but also snowboarding and having a blast.
She’s also been to Peru (she hiked to Machu Pichhu), Amsterdam, Morocco, Spain, and at the end of 2019, she took a solo trip from California to Australia. She was only 18 at the time and she didn’t have a travel buddy but she had the best time.
There she bungee jumped, went sky-diving and snorkeling. She visited Koala sanctuaries and spent time with my late best friend’s family.
I came to visit my sister and her in California in February of 2020, right before we knew that a pandemic would change the world and our lives. I counted the minutes until we hugged and felt like I couldn’t let her go when she and my sister met me at the airport in San Francisco.
Our reunion after our first 8 months apart
After eight months apart, we tried to make up for missed hugs and in-person conversations. We went climbing in indoor gyms, we went hiking in Yosemite National Park.
I noticed in small ways, she had been listening to me all those years while I tried to be a decently good role model.
From adjusting her mirrors in the car before driving to returning extra change if the cashier made a mistake, I realized my daughter had blossomed into a beautiful, noble human being.
I came back home to Florida and she and I promised we’d never let so many months go by again without seeing each other.
We booked tickets to meet in NYC to celebrate her 19th birthday in May, and she also booked a trip to Florida in June with my sister. She planned and mapped out another trip to Europe.
And then, lockdowns started, planes were grounded, we canceled plans, braced for the unknown and, once again, faced many months of separation.
After hunkering down for weeks on end with my sister in California, at 19, Chloe found a way to indulge in her love of travel and outdoor adventure.
She worked at a Hostel in Lake Tahoe for the summer and enjoyed adventures that had me on the edge of my seat.
For example, thru-hiking The Tahoe Rim Trail solo or paddleboarding across Lake Tahoe.
Some days she had no signal, and others she’d post a picture of her little tent in the middle of nowhere and my heart sank. But she was going through her own personal and spiritual path and emerging stronger and more confident.
How I deal with her love of extreme adventures
When I shared her travels on Instagram, so many moms, especially Hispanic moms (like myself), asked me how I could deal with that. “Aren’t you scared?” “How can you let her do that?” “I can’t even imagine ….” And so on and so forth.
Well, my response to those questions is in another video I just recorded and that you can watch at the start of this blog post, about how I cope with having a risk-loving daughter who lives farther from me than I’d ever have imagined. Right now she’s in Hawaii for 3 months, and then she will spend another three months in San Diego, working and studying to be an EMT.
Being the mother of a thrill-seeking independent and strong young woman is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you. But I certainly prefer this to having her by my side, unhappy and feeling lost.
If she were not my daughter, I would tell her to do exactly what she is doing – courageously taking life by the horns. So that’s actually what I do tell her.
I also remind her to wear her seatbelt, or a helmet if she’s riding a moped, or to not slip and fall over a ledge when she’s climbing. It’s a mom thing and by now, she knows.
How I stay chill while she’s perhaps risking her life
All I can really do take care of myself: my physical, emotional and mental well-being, while I cheer her on. As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I practice detachment – letting her enjoy her own journey, while I continue to focus on my path.
Of course I don’t want anything to happen to her, I’m sure she doesn’t want that either. But if it came to that at least she’d be doing something she’s passionate about. Some people slip in the shower, to their death.
Interestingly, although my daughter is physically far, I feel a deep connection with her. We’re in touch a lot, even if it’s only a good night text, or a quick check-in when I know she’s doing something that’s important to her. Other times we enjoy long Facetime calls and text chats.
The best thing is that my daughter inspires ME. I may not want to jump out of a plane or bungee jump, but thanks to Chloe my world for last year was DARE, and dare I did, to the last day of the year, by facing my fear of heights, on an adventure course.
I also bought two paddleboards last year, to enjoy water adventures with my youngest and sometimes, on my own.
My message if you’re having a hard time letting go of your young adult child
To other mothers who are about to let their children go out into the world, I say, it’s acceptable to mourn the loss of the physical closeness, it’s common to wonder whether you did a good job. It’s normal to feel grief. It’s ok to cry.
But as time goes by, I’ve discovered something beautiful, which is to witness the evolution of that tiny helpless baby born almost two decades ago, into one of the most admirable human beings I know. And that makes every emotion I go through as a mother worth it.