Dave and Mercedes Rizzo reflect on the experience of letting their youngest daughter spend a semester abroad in Europe.
The following lyrics from John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane have been going through our heads recently: "All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go …"
This is because our youngest daughter Shannon returned home from studying abroad in Paris. It is an understatement to say we are relieved to have her back safely and that she had a wonderful experience. She celebrated her twentieth birthday in Paris. Truly a birthday to remember her whole life! She stood in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on the day she turned twenty. How cool is that!
But as happy as we were for her to have this experience, we worried a lot for her safety and that our youngest was so far from home. It tested our faith a little, despite everyone telling us she would be fine. We put our trust in God. We asked many people to pray for her and they did. We are grateful because we know she benefited from all the prayers.
One person in particular missed her enormously: her sister Danielle. Although Shannon is younger by three years, she has always acted as the older sister, protecting Danielle and helping her. Even though we did our best to explain Shannon’s absence to Danielle, we never know how much she understands because of her autism. But one thing is for sure: she was thrilled when Shannon walked through the door of our home with a new level of confidence and maturity that made it all worth it! We were equally thrilled.
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Isn’t that the goal that every parent strives for, to teach your children well, to do the best you can, and then step aside and let them have some experiences without you? #catholicmom
Whenever we hear "Leaving on a Jet Plane," it will make us smile as we remember this great experience for Shannon, and how much she grew. It was a lesson for us to learn that we did our job as parents well, that Shannon was able to navigate the vast world without us. Isn’t that the goal that every parent strives for, to teach your children well, to do the best you can, and then step aside and let them have some experiences without you?
Shannon will always be our youngest and our baby. But the next time she travels we will be a little bit calmer and more peaceful. We will still ask for prayers from everyone we know. As John Denver sang, “I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Oh Babe, I hate to go.”
We let her go. We’re glad we did.
Copyright 2022 David and Mercedes Rizzo
Images copyright 2022 David and Mercedes Rizzo, all rights reserved.
About the Author
David and Mercedes Rizzo
David and Mercedes write and speak from a faith perspective as parents of a child with autism. They are available to speak, and have appeared on radio and other media. Visit DavidAndMercedesRizzo.com to learn more. Follow them on Facebook at Autism With The Rizzos. Authors of Praying For Your Special Needs Child, (Word Among Us Press) and Spiritually Able and The Adaptive First Eucharist Preparation Kit (Loyola Press).