The boxes are stacking up and it’s getting harder. We’re about to send our youngest off into the world. He is fourteen years old.
I didn't plan it this way. I had planned for him to stay right here with his dad and me for his high school years. But life often laughs at our plans and so do our children. My son decided a year ago that he wanted something new and different: boarding school. I whispered to my husband in clandestine conversations that there was no way in hell that was going to happen and I hoped the boy would forget the novel idea the way kids often do. But he didn’t. Instead he stuck with it, found the school that felt like a great fit, and never vacillated.
Without a doubt, this is a good path for him. Solid. Filled with opportunities he wouldn’t have here, including a chance to live in a new place for the first time in his life. The academics will prepare him well. There are many adults who will bring good influence to his life at a time when our parental influence will wane. An array of circumstances have led me to believe this is exactly where our son is supposed to be. For all of this and more, I am grateful.
But that’s the head stuff. The logical side of this story. It’s straightforward and clear. The emotional side is not that way. It’s filled with conflict. One part of my heart is giddy with excitement for my boy who will enjoy an array of new experiences and incredible personal growth. I’m proud of his courage in taking on something that’s big and largely unknown without his parents there by his side. I am thrilled about the opportunities that await him and I’m curious about what awaits me as an empty nester. I have a strong sense that God is up to something for all of us. I know this next step is a very good thing.
But it hurts to let go. It’s a very challenging change. Maybe that’s because we spend our children’s early lives holding on to them, albeit in varying degrees. Many of us start with our babies being a part of us, two in one body. When they arrive, we hold them close to us, skin to skin. But even as little ones, they are eager to make their own way. They start to walk and we let them slip off our laps. Later we walk, hand in hand, to the classroom door for that first day of school and we encourage them to go forward without us. Then there are play dates and sleep overs that take them a few more steps away from us.
By high school, they are independence seekers who are desperate to forge their own path. So we loosen our parental hold even more. And then, whether early, like our family or later like most, they walk out into the world. It all sounds gradual, but at this point of departure, those early years feel like a collection of yesterdays when they sat in our lap for a story or wrapped their little arms around our necks, desperate for our affection. It’s hard to imagine that this person who has been my world is pushing off into his own distant orbit.
All of this puts my emotions in a state of conflict. Maybe you’ve felt it, too, as you've launched your child at whatever age. I’ve finally untangled my jumbled feelings and have decided that, more than anything else, I am ex-sad-ed, a word I’ve made up that feels just right for this. Excited. Sad. All rolled into one.
I am exsaded.
Now that I’ve labeled it, I can see it for what it really is and I hope that will help me to handle it better, for my boy’s sake. I hope our moment of farewell on Labor Day (ironic given the hard work of letting go) fills him with hope and encouragement. I hope he knows how much we love him and he senses that we believe in him and we are happy for him, despite how we feel for ourselves. I hope he sees it all even if it comes wrapped in teary eyed hugs that are tighter and longer than usual. I will remind myself that his life is not about me. It's about him. And I will remember that letting go of him is our greatest way of showing our love, a love that demands we are selfless.
We often say growing up is hard for them. The truth is, it’s hard for us, too. I think it’s actually harder for us. But onward we go, seeking good things and believing in the rest of the story. Theirs and ours.
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