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That Time I Put My 7-Year-Old On a Plane. Alone

Photograph by Twenty20

Despite my tendencies toward deep paranoia, I sent my 7-year-old on a plane to visit his grandma.

I mean, shoot, my mom put me on a plane when I was 6. I was in charge of my 3-year-old brother. (Guys, please, we were in matching white hand-smocked outfits. We were totally fine.) I remember sitting next to a cartoonist. He drew photos for us, and we flew from Colorado to Arizona.

Living in Los Angeles, my kids are not given many opportunities to have independent moments. I want to give them more, but we live in the hit-and-run capital of the U.S. Car crashes are the No, 1 cause of death for kids.

So, I sent him up in a plane instead.

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He flew Southwest, where I was charged an extra $50 or something for the unaccompanied minor part. They let me walk him through security, to his gate, which was pretty fun and a lot like the good ol' days.

I thought about the airport bar for a second.

He was given a card that went into a plastic holder that went around his neck, and then we just waited to start boarding. It was a short flight, and he wasn't nervous. When it was time for us to separate, I kissed and hugged him and a flight attendant walked him onto the plane.

The plane sat for a few minutes. Finally, it backed away from the gate and began to taxi.

I watched him from the window, and I admit I thought I might get diarrhea. I had to wait until the plane was in the air before I let myself leave. I admit I had to take some deep breaths and took a melatonin.

I thought about the airport bar for a second. Stay strong.

I watched the plane turn and take off, wheels up, all 55 pounds of him lifted into the air. I'm pretty sure I cried. I know I started running but not so much that others noticed. Why, I don't know.

We all laughed, and then I remembered the most dangerous part of your flight is the drive home ...

I called my husband saying I felt a little uneasy. My husband, always the calming force, reassured me. I drove back to my house from LAX. It took 50 minutes. By the time I arrived, my mom had called me.

"We got him!" she said.

My son got on the phone and told me he was fine.

"I ordered a Diet Coke," he admitted.

What? That's got caffeine. Also, how strange he picked diet.

We all laughed, and then I remembered the most dangerous part of your flight is the drive home, and I told my mom to drive him home safely.

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Later, she called me and reported how she let him stay up late, watch adult TV shows, drive a golf cart and basically re-created my '70s youth.

Just as she should.

He flew again the following summer. He also eventually admitted to me that he had never actually ordered the Diet Coke. He was only joking.

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