Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dear Australia

Dear Australia,

I am sending you one of my greatest life treasures.

She is my oldest daughter, Emma, and she is just a few weeks shy of her fourteenth birthday. She is inherently reserved but has, within the past year, blossomed in ways that I could only have imagined. In ways that a father can only hope and dream. With her silly sense of humor, her emerging sense of adventure, her advancing maturity, and her loyal commitment to her friends and family, a visit to you, with your rich, diverse culture, seems like an amazing opportunity for Emma to continue her beautiful blooming.

Emma received her invitation to tour your great country last fall. After opening the mail and reading the information, she had no hesitation. "Mom and Dad," she said, quite boldly, "I want to go to Australia." I remember the look that passed between my wife and I. What happened to our little baby girl? The one who took a year to grow her soft, pretty blond hair on her infant head? The one who passively observed life and all of it's offerings? The one who's sweet chime of giggles was slowly replaced with the hearty, innocent laugh of adolescence? Was this the same girl who now, with uncontained excitement, wanted to up and leave us, her family, for seventeen adventure-filled days in your unique continent?

Yes. She was one and the same.

With gusto, we pursued the incredible facts of Australia, she with the six States and two Territories. She with the abundant physical resources. She with twenty million strong, seventy percent of who live in her ten largest cities. She with the varying weather, wildlife and vegetation that could be no more different than ours.

We pursued the meetings and critically reviewed the itinerary of travel plans that Emma would follow with this commitment. And then we as a family decided.

Yes, Emma, you can go to Australia.

From this decision, beautiful Australia, we have already learned many things. As parents, my wife and I are just a little nervous, truth be told, about offering up our daughter to the world. But knowing that she will be embraced by your comforting arms and and your compassionate people make this an easier decision for us. Emma has never looked back, not once, on her concrete decision to visit you. And as much as we want to shelter Emma in our cocoon of love and safety, we feel that the time is right for her to spread her wings and fly. Really, really spread them. And soar above the confines of our small corner of the world.

So Australia, on behalf of my wife and I, our families and friends, and Emma's siblings, we thank you for taking care of our precious daughter and loved one. Thank you in advance for showing her that the world doesn't have to be viewed as a big, bad, dangerous place. She will learn that, with caution, our world, beginning with you, is a marvelous, amazing potpourri of cultures and and sea of friendly, compassionate faces. That, no matter where we live, we all want the same thing. Acceptance. Compassion. Peace. Smiles.

And love. Especially love.

Thank you, Australia, for playing a part in my daughter's journey of life.


As always, big thanks for reading. I especially want to thank Peter for his kind words, via email, as we prepared our daughter for this amazing experience. Next post will be Friday, July 9. See you then...and hopefully, by then, my heart will be a little lighter.


Little Miss Yellow said...

Australia is a truly unique and beautiful place, but also quite similar to America in many aspects. Although that's my opinion, and I might be a tad bias.
Hope your daughter has a great time here!
And thank you for writing such interesting stories!

The Hopeful Elephant said...

My best friend lives in Australia. I'll have her hunt Emma down and make sure she's OK! ;)

That is truly terrifying. And exciting. And unimaginably cool.

OH dear Lord...your poor wife must be a ball of nerves..lots of prayers for you all!

Sharp Incisions said...

Good luck Emma! And more importantly, good luck to Mum and Dad not to worry too much while she's away. If there's anything about Australia you'd like to know, or if you want someone to check in on her while she's here, feel free to get in touch. :)

Anonymous said...

We will welcome her, show her a great time, keep her safe and send her back with a huge smile on her face!
Thank you for sharing your daughter with us!

rlbates said...

Hope she has a great time!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i know you must be afraid. and yet you let her go, what a lovely thing to do, unselfish and caring and life changing! i don't know any details but am sure she's not just going to get off the plane and be on her own so i am sure she'll have an amazing adventure. and i know exactly how you will feel on your way home from the airport with her empty seat. be brave! be strong! you rock doc! she's a very lucky girl.

smiles, bee

911RN said...

Great post...Australia has "your million dollars." KNOW exactly how you feel.

Now, I will explain...when we first had children- I read an article on safety issues with children/infants. It explained to never leave your children out of sight or out of arms reach for any situation that you would not feel equally confident to leave a million dollars (in plain sight) and expect to see the money upon your return.

I shared that with my husband and it just became a great visual analogy of how to view the safety of your children-if a parent ever became concerned or questioned if a circumstance was 'right' or not in leaving their children in particular situation.

My children were quickly dubbed our "million dollars" that we would protect above all.

My son went to Washington, DC for his first trip "away from home" (without parents) for a week this past Spring, at age 12! Not quite Australia but he returned home safely...as I'm sure your daughter will, as well.

Only one thing, Dr Jim...you left me hanging- what circumstance allowed her to be invited to Australia to begin with?? I was curious and never had the question answered from your post?!

Whatever it was- I wish Emma a great, adventure filled, exciting journey and a safe return of your "million dollars" to the arms of her loving family.

WarmSocks said...

Wow! What an incredible opportunity for your daughter.

As a parent, I can understand your mixed-emotions about sending your baby off to another country, as I have two of my own planning a trip to Guatemala. I know it will be an amazing experience for them; nonetheless, it's with trepidation that we agreed to let them go.

I hope your daughter has a great time and returns home safely. Maybe she could do a guest post about the trip when she gets back?

Radioactive Tori said...

When I was in high school I went to Australia as an exchange student. It was one of the best times of my life. I was 13 when I went and although it was kind of scary to go it was so worth it. I am 35 now and to this day several of the friends I met there are people I still consider my best friends. As a parent of a 12 year old it scares me like crazy to think about my daughter doing this but remembering how much I grew from it I would do it in a second.

Good luck to your daughter, and I'll think good thoughts for you all.

SeaSpray said...

What a beautiful post!

This should be hand written and placed in the most special protective book ..that no doubt others will be added in. And print it. Copies everywhere. :)

What a fabulous father you are!

And what a blessed daughter she is. :)

Katie Axelson said...

Not going to lie, I'm incredibly jealous of Emma. :-) Even at a month shy of 21, I'm not sure my parents would let me go to Australia. I pray she has a wonderful (and safe!) time. What an amazing experience and memories she will not forget! When she gets back, tell her we want to hear some of her stories. :-)

<>< Katie

PS: I agree with SeaSpray, hand write this and save it for her.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 15 year old Australian.. it's a beautiful country, Emma will love it! Which city?

Really, the people are very kind, the landscape is amazing and she will have a great time!

coulrophobic agnostic said...

Sounds like great fun. My high school - which started in grade 8 - had two-week overnight trips to other countries over spring break. I never got to go (I never asked, assuming it would be too expensive) but it always sounded great. I'm sure she'll have the adventure of a lifetime!

Rogue Medic said...

She will have a great time, mixed with some homesick feelings, but will return with stories and a fresh appreciation for things she may have taken for granted.

Have Myelin? said...

My 28 year old son flew to Denmark to give a graduation speech to his peers across the pond. Instead of being a proud parent I was very tense while he was gone. I lost my daughter a year ago (his sister) but I mostly kept my mouth shut because it was an 'honor'. Mostly. LOL.

When he returned and said he might travel to Madagascar during "Spring Break" to visit his girlfriend while she was on work/study but I put my foot down and said NO....

Australia, very cool. =)

Anonymous said...

Lucky Australia. Lucky Emma. Lucky you. Your description of her early years matches my own daughter so well. At just two and a half, her soft brown hair has finally covered her sweet head. At first I could not imagine ever sending her (alone, gasp) to Australia.

But, my parents sent me to Germany at 15 to stay with my German teacher's family. And I am posting this from Berlin. My daughter is finally sleeping in the room next door. My *parents* are sleeping in an apartment around the corner. Yes, Germany turned into the basis of my career and the whole family is here for the summer. The grandparents are along for child care. All because of that trip when I was 15. So, you never know where this will lead. Thanks for sharing!

Karen said...

What a wonderful experience for your daughter. She'll have a great time and a lifetime of memories.

Peter said...

G'day from Downunder - I'm amazed how many fellow Aussies I've found here, or just love the place!

Yes, Australia shares many things with your homeland and I'm very sure Emma will be thrilled to bits that it's just like home.

Emma may even get to meet our first female Prime Minister, red hair and all. BTW thank you very much for the plug!

Take Care,

Anonymous said...

Another Aussie coming out of the woodwork to say, great stories and a big welcome to Emma...

One day she will look back on this and realise what an amazing gift you've given her... my parents did a similar thing (England, Germany) and it's enriched my life more than I can describe.

It's given me confidence, a broader perspective, tolerance and interest in other cultures, the desire to learn languages... I'm sure I wouldn't be living in Mexico or have travelled around the world as I have if it weren't for the fact that when I was a teenager, they put their trust in me and gave me the freedom to grow. They gave me roots, then they gave me wings.

Hope Emma has an awesome time and I hope my countrymen take care of her, keep us updated on how she gets on!


Anonymous said...

What a shame she will be missing the best part of "down under" - New Zealand.

Maha said...

All I have to say is that you guys are amazing parents! And Emma is going to LOVE Australia! A lot of my family lives there and it's one of my favourite places to visit.

Eileen said...

Lucky girl and I wish my girls had had a similar opportunity! I keep asking them if they're interested in going to work there as they and partners have very transferrable jobs in the healthcare sector.
Though as an outsider who has visited both countries I'm trying to see where Little Miss Yellow thinks the USA nad Oz are quite similar - only connection I can think of is the not quite the same versions of the English language that I speak! ;)

Little Doc said...

I hope Emma has a wonderful time! I love my country and its people. I hope she enjoys this experience! :) (and if she's here around this time she can enjoy our 'winter' - 13C/55F and we totally freak out! :P)
If you have any questions/concerns feel free to email me :)

WWWebb said...

Student Ambassadors?

My son went to Australia and New Zealand-- was it nine years ago?

It changed his life.

And you get a real bang for the buck with that organization.

Rositta said...

You are really cool parents. I'm not certain I would have been able to let a daughter go so far away. My son at 19 went to the far north (4000 km north to Yellowknife) and I was mostly freaked out. My youngest grandson is going to Botswana in the fall and I know it's not my place to worry but I do. Of course when I travel I expect them not to worry about me yet they always do. I have not been to Australia, it's on my to do list but I hear it is beautiful and the people absolutely wonderful...ciao

Mike Cadogan said...

We will look after her, especially in the West...
I travelled to Australia 15 years ago...and never left (sorry this is supposed to be encouraging)
All will be well, she will have a fantastic time, and we will allow her to return...

Anonymous said...

I'm an Aussie med student and came here via KevinMD. (By the way, thanks for your hilarious story here! It reminded me of this.) Good luck to your daughter! By the way if she has any interest in med, we have a great need for doctors! Also, our med schools accept students straight from school so she could begin when she's 17/18. Cheers!