As you all recall, my son Matthew and his two friends went on a road trip this summer to heal and cope with anxiety after a mass shooting at their high school in Parkland. The road trip was supposed to last six months. Well, that road trip took an unexpected turn. Home.
Matthew and his friends were on the road for six weeks and visited ten states when they realized they hadn’t planned as well as they should have for their journey. They made the difficult decision to head back home.
As a mom, I knew they would never last six months on the road. No way. I knew once day-to-day life on the road began, they would see it is not as easy as it sounds. However, they needed to figure that out for themselves.
On the road, they quickly realized their trip would cost much more than they thought and they got homesick. However, I am quite proud of what they accomplished in the six weeks they were away. They had an opportunity to cook, clean, budget money, do laundry, do chores, meet people, visit places and do things they normally wouldn’t have and get along with each other under one trailer roof.
They were free to see the world in a different way. They discovered life is not easy when one is responsible for oneself. They ran out of gas, got a flat, and had to rely on trailer park showers. On the flip side, Matthew got to see his 93-year-old great-grandmother in New York and see his newly born cousin, Ethan, in Maryland. He even learned how to make his favorite meal — black beans and rice — via FaceTime with me!
I do not regret the decision to let Matthew go on this road trip because the boy that left was not the young man that came back. Matthew doesn’t like to have things done for him, so this was his way of showing his independence to me and his dad and proving to us how much he can do on his own. Matthew always says to me, “Mom, give a man a fish and he will starve, teach a man to fish and he will eat forever.” He is right.
Matthew felt like he failed by cutting the trip short. I told him, “You didn’t fail. You accomplished exactly what you set out to do — meet people, travel and see America, and find a way of healing from the 2-14-18 event.” ( the mass shooting in his high school) I asked Matthew if he wanted to continue online school like planned while on the road, and he said he was okay returning to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to finish his senior year. He missed his friends and he felt he had learned how to better handle his anxiety while on the road.
Matthew came home stronger. I could see and feel his confidence when he returned to school. Like I said, the trip worked. Don’t get me wrong, I know this doesn’t mean the trip made Matthew anxiety-free from the 2-14-18. I don’t think that will ever happen. But, I do think it helped him grow as a person, strong enough to handle his anxiety and feel optimistic about his future.
Sometimes our children need to be supported in their choices, even if we don’t agree with them. Not all of us take the same path for healing. Some of us take short paths and some of us take longer paths. Matthew’s path took six weeks — and it continues.