….. It’s that time of life we all know is coming. Fall? Football season? Nope, the season of letting go. Many parents are packing up their kids for college. I’m not gonna sugar coat this stage of parenthood. It’s the toughest of all. Granted, sending them to kindergarten was heart-wrenching. Don’t know which of my kids was worse, Shannon who wouldn’t get out of the car to join her classmates holding onto the steering wheel like it was a life raft protecting her from the rough and tumble world or Doug who trotted off without a glance back at his mother who was aghast at his eagerness to leave her. After all, it took her 23 hours of labor to birth this 8lb 12-ounce boy and within a nano second he has left me behind without even a glance back.
…..But, college? The timing couldn’t be worse. The kid who you didn’t recognize two years earlier has finally evolved into a person you not only love, but actually like. Finally, there are coherent conversations that don’t turn into battles being conducted. The fully-formed person you see before you now has the temerity to want to leave you.
…..I will unabashedly admit the column is totally personal. For years I ran the column about the trauma I experienced when my first born went off to Bethany in this publication and others. It was heart- wrenching. And, this week that same child and his wife, Laurie, send their youngest, Jacob, off to the University of Montana where he will trade his surfboard for a snowboard.
…… There’s an upspoken law about the youngest in the family: they’re not supposed to grow up just like your own kids aren’t supposed to grow old. But, it happens and before you know it the focus of your life has changed.
…..As you pack them up with a supply of sheets they’ll never wash and towels you just know will turn moldy and smelly under their watch, your mind is sure to travel back 18 years. Do you remember the first time you were introduced to your newborn? Tiny fingers closed around your finger, forging a bond with tentacles as strong as steel. Baby held on, but I dare to say the parent held on tighter. For the first years, your baby and you were members of a mutual admiration society. You provided every need and baby looked to you for every need. But babies soon learn to crawl, and then walk and then, kindergarten comes calling. I contend that once your child learns to walk every step is a move toward independence and away from you.
……There comes a moment when as a parent your child breaks it to you that you need to let them venture out into the world alone. I remember the day it happened to me. I walked Doug to the school bus stop every morning and waited with him until the bus would take him to kindergarten. One day, I reached for his hand on our walk and it wasn’t there. It was tucked firmly into his jean’s pocket. He picked up his pace and soon without our hands to join us it was clear our pace no longer matched. Mine, too slow, reluctant for the moment I would have to let him go. His, too fast, eager for the moment he would be free to go explore. And, so I let him go on without me.
……From the moment they are born, the job of parenting is a process…..sometimes gentle, sometimes brutal….. of letting go. To all the parents who are experiencing the final step in that process of letting go, my sympathies and my congratulations. You’ve nurtured them; cheered their victories; wiped away the tears of their defeat and taught them how to walk alone.. It’s time to let them go on without you