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I’m About To Put My 5-Year-Old Daughter On A Plane Without Me And I’m Freaking Out

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She says “libary.” And “ter” when she means “for.” “Dada, I made this ter you.”

I know as her parent, I’m supposed to correct her language so that she isn’t ridiculed in school. I’m supposed to proactively protect her from shame. But to me, her malapropisms and mispronunciations are gold.

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Right now, she’s wearing a bright, lemony yellow tank top with a golden yellow skirt — a color combination I would not be able to pull off. Nor could I pull off the skirt alone in any color, for that matter. But she makes it work. Effortlessly.

It’s that pure joy and beacon of love I want to hold onto most. Forever. But I can’t.

One recent hike in a state park started out fine until she got wise. “We’re walking outdoors? Again?”

She is the most unbelievably, loving person/concept/spirit I could never have dreamed of belonging to. And I have to lie to her. And put her in harm’s way. I am going to put her on a plane, without me.

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The other day it fell upon me to try to explain the various definitions of the word “park.” We live in a beautiful part of the country, just adjacent to Napa Valley. Being relatively new here, the wife and I try to get outdoors and explore the area as often as possible. Our short boss, naturally, comes along.

But she has to sometimes be tricked. To her, if you say “park,” there better be a playground front and center. One recent hike in a state park started out fine until she got wise. “We’re walking outdoors? Again?” “What the shit is this?” (I may be paraphrasing that last quote.)

leaving my daughter alone on planes
Wikimedia Commons

Fast forward to last week when I gamely tried to explain the difference between state parks, national parks, county parks, city/playground parks and the big one: theme parks. (There are also industrial parks, but I will let someone else crush her soul and explain this abomination of terminology.)

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Theme parks are on our minds these days because my everything is about to get on a plane with Bama and Papa to go to Disneyland.

I’m not an easy flyer. I don’t need medication or a therapist, but I’m not fond of flying. Not being an aeronautic engineer, I don’t really get flying. Flying on an airplane is a practice of combined magic and trust. I don’t trust it, even though statistics prove that it’s safer than riding in a car.

The result of my mistrust of flying is a conviction that I’m going to die on every plane trip. Either something mechanical or human will go catastrophically wrong or God will end the “magic flying experiment” mid-flight and the huge heavy metallic and plastic tube with flaps will fall out of the sky with a deadly drop.

leaving my daughter alone on planes Pixabay

Naturally, I feel guilty. I look at the other passengers on the plane and feel sorry for them. They had the unfortunate random luck to be on the plane with me. Or, if it’s the God option, the last plane ride ever. I feel a strong sense of relief and gratitude when the plane finally touches down on arrival.

Obviously, I’m wrong about dying on an airplane. It hasn’t happened yet, so I have to admit to being wrong about some things in life. I’ve been on more flights than I can count, so the evidence against my phobic theory grows. I’ve spilled out of canoes and other boats, been in bicycle crashes, motorcycle crashes, car crashes and even a train crash, but I’ve never been in a plane crash.

Not being an aeronautic engineer, I don’t really get flying. Flying on an airplane is a practice of combined magic and trust.

The potential horror of a plane crash haunts me. That I’ve never experienced it serves to feed an irrational fear that God (or the odds) will get me back for all my narrow escapes or humanly misdeeds by putting my baby through it. I can’t stand letting her go to school, even though her mother usually takes her on the 2-mile journey. I’m stricken with a fear that needs to be shoved deep down when she and her mother get on a plane without me.

Soon, she will board a plane with two other people I love: my parents. They are about to embark on a great family tradition of treating the grandchildren to a trip to Disneyland when they turn five. Honestly, I’m not sure who the trip is mostly for, but it’s a treasured memory for all the kids in our family.

leaving my daughter alone on planes

I will drive them all to the airport. I will be in control of that leg of the journey. This is a false sense of security, because any sense of security is a false one. But I will cling to it. And then I will relinquish all hope of security as they walk away on their adventure.

She’s asked me about parks. She will ask me about flying. And I’m going to lie to her and tell her it’s perfectly safe. Could I possibly hate the truth more?

Julian Rogers is a freelance writer, communications consultant, owner of Juju Eye Communications and publisher of The Hit Job. Follow on Twitter (@thejujueye). Read more of his Medium posts here: