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Astronaut

(On receiving another resource guide from Schuyler’s school, titled “Planning for Life After School, or Daddy Needs a Drink”. I paraphrase…)

As both a writer and a father, I’m always looking for different ways to think of Schuyler’s journey, unique perspectives by which to describe the experience of raising such an unusual and extraordinary child. Being Schuyler’s parent is different from most, in ways that can be hard to explain. As I’ve said before, if every child in the world is a unique, special snowflake, then Schuyler is something like a purple snowflake. But that’s not the metaphor I’m using today, because this time, I’m not describing her, but rather her trip into the future, into the adult life that will ultimately be hers to live.

astronautToday, Schuyler is an astronaut.

Schuyler’s mission has been years in the making. As her mission control specialists, her mother and I have been planning this for years. We’ve maintained her living quarters and tried to make it the best learning laboratory we can. We’ve endeavored to find her the best training facilities that we can, staffed with experts in a variety of fields and populated by a community of fellow astronauts from whom she can learn and with whom she can build a strong community.

Schuyler’s training covers a multitude of possible outcomes. Her mission isn’t very clearly defined, to be honest. When she embarks on her journey, it won’t be to complete a specific task like repairing a satellite or conducting a science experiment. Schuyler’s mission will be one of exploration, and so much of her success will depend on her ability to adjust to changing conditions and adapt to new environments.

Here at Mission Control, we work hard to prepare her for those mysterious outcomes. It’s hard because those unknowns are so, well, completely unknown. Schuyler will be venturing into uncharted territory, so we prepare her as best as we can. We run her through simulations of what that mission might be like. She learns how to use advanced technology and to adjust when it fails her. She practices taking complicated scenarios and simplifying them to the point that she can navigate them successfully. We teach her how to extinguish fires in the capsule and to deal diplomatically with the other astronauts with whom she will sometimes interact in her travels.

We spend years preparing our astronaut for her grand mission. Years. Then one day, in the not terribly distant future, we will count down and launch her into the unknown. We’ll watch that flame rise into the sky, and eventually its brightness will fade and the rumble of the engines will be too distant to hear, and we’ll sit in our mission control, in silence.

When Schuyler takes flight and soars into the void, she will be alone.

She’ll have support from the ground, and her telemetry will be monitored and new instructions will be sent, but it’ll be up to her to implement those instructions. We’ll always be there for Schuyler, as long as we live, but in ways that matter a very great deal, she’ll be beyond our reach. She’ll be alone to face the dangers and the loneliness, and we’ll be forever distant from her, celebrating her successes and her discoveries, unbelievably full of pride but always silently hoping that she’s not going to be struck by a comet or eaten by a space monster.

We already sent her on her mission with one monster. We dare not think too long on the ones that might await her out there.

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One Comment
  1. DC
    November 10, 2014 | Reply

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