Letting them fly

My son’s father recently suggested that our boy, age 11, fly to Washington, D.C., to see his grandmother on a solo trip this summer.

After all, my son’s dad had flown alone as a child — starting at age 5! — to visit his relatives. And my son’s grandmother had sent her sons off to fly as minors as well. 

It’s actually not that uncommon and there are typically airline employees to assist unaccompanied minors on their journeys. 

Such an adventure is relatively low risk, given the security and safety of airports. And the process is straightforward, too, especially if there’s no connecting flight. 

The benefit? Kids see they’re savvy enough to navigate something big — an important experience for someone like my son, who’s approaching junior high, where he’ll be expected to take real responsibility for his own academic and personal destiny. At this point, college is but years away. And I don’t want our son to be a freshman whose helicopter mom gave him few chances to practice life skills all on his own. Unsupervised life experiences grow confidence and sense of self.

And yet. 

How could I let go of that much control? 

I guess that’s our job as parents — to sacrifice our own comfort to make sure our little birds can fly from the nest when the time is right. I just picture those nature videos with the no-nonsense mamas shoving a brood of downy little chicks to the edge of a high nest so they can fall/fly on their way down into a puff of dry leaves.

This being our annual Camp Issue, there are definitely some parallels with this metaphor: Parents who are considering the multitudes of experiences available for their kids in the Twin Cities might be afraid of the commitment or might feel tentative about sending their kids off for a day, a week or overnight. And their kids might resist.

And yet. 

Minnesota offers some incredible summer experiences — more than 100 camps are mentioned in this very magazine — for those families who take the leap. 

Opportunities featured in the pages ahead include bouldering: Climbing without ropes! Learning five instruments: What if they don’t love it? Sleep-away camp for kids with congenital heart disease: A big step for families. And fire arts: Yes, literally playing with open fire.

If it all sounds like just too much, I would encourage you to just take a chance, or keep looking. There’s a perfect camp for your kid’s tastes and your comfort level.

Is my son going to fly this summer to see Nana? I’m not sure.

But I know one thing: He’s definitely going to camp!