Kindergarten picture, growing up, flying alone, little boy

Blaise in kindergarten, Leverett Elementary

For ten years I have been driving my son to school, from the first day of kindergarten. Most weeks it’s been Monday through Thursday. I have really insisted on taking him to school for very selfish reasons. I wanted to ensure that he would hear every single day as he got out of the car, “I love you. Have a good day.” I thought every kid needed to be sent off with loving words.

As he would get out of the car, he’d take a step and turn around for one more split second to get one more look at me. Every day I waited for that one last look. He needed to know I was still there even when he was not looking.

When Blaise was 11, I put him on a plane in Chicago to fly to Little Rock. I was a mess. He was flying solo and I was about to fly to London shortly after his plane took off. His great aunt would be at the other end and the flight was nonstop, so he would be fine. He was excited about flying by himself, but as a minor he still had special attention. I was sobbing uncontrollably at the gate. I think I was just overwhelmed at facing this milestone for him as well as thinking about not seeing him for three weeks. There was another dad at the gate sending off his daughter, and he was teary-eyed also. The flight attendant at the counter was teary just watching us.

As Blaise headed down the ramp toward the plane, I waited to see if he’d turn back. This time he threw his shoulders back and marched straight ahead without looking back. Good for him! But I cried even more. My brave boy wanted to be all grown up.

TSA, teenage boys, flying alone, Fort Smith, Chicago

Blaise preparing to board at the Fort Smith airport

About a month ago, a now 15-year-old Blaise was flying by himself from Fort Smith to DFW and would have to change planes AND terminals at DFW by himself. He’s no longer able to fly as an accompanied minor. More importantly, he didn’t want help. We poured over the map of the terminals at DFW and practiced reading arrival and departure boards. He had strict orders to call me about a bazillion times.

At the airport in Fort Smith, Blaise had to keep telling me that he was fine. He knew what to do (and he did). I sent him off and he started through the TSA security line like a pro. As he put his bag on the conveyor belt, he glanced back at me one last time, just like when he was little. I cried, of course.

He made his plane and terminal changes at DFW just fine and then made his way through Chicago O’Hare to the baggage claim to find my brother who was picking him up. He’s so independent and brave, but I hope he knows that if he turns around, even for a split second, I’ll be waiting and watching, just to make sure he knows that I’m always there.

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