My youngest started at a new preschool last week. I have all the feelings about this — a sense of triumph and seeing that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel coupled with that awareness of how quickly our kiddos grow up and out. He is our last, so we just had our last first day of preschool complete with photos and excitement, and in his second week, more than a few tears (his and mine).
Separation anxiety, albeit mild, has found its way into our lives this past week. While our guy sailed through his first week of being away from home, the second week kind of snuck up on him and when we walked into his classroom, the tears and clinging started. “Don’t leave me!” he wailed, as he clung to my hand. His first task after walking into his class environment is to wash his hands (thank you, teachers!). He would do so only if I held his hand through the process. There was no chance of his letting go, his grip was tight.
But I did let go, because it was time. Letting go is what parenting is all about, isn’t it? It starts early and childhood becomes a series of events where we let go of them, literally and metaphorically, then, catch our breath and hope for the best.
I know I am biased about this, my perspective different than many of my parent friends. When we buried our daughter, that was the ultimate “letting go.” These other milestones with our sons are but a whisper to the roar of watching dirt being shoveled over our daughter’s casket. And there has yet to be a milestone, a mark of letting go with my boys, that I have not celebrated, even when there are tears.
The crazy part of me has a bit of a thrill when watching my boy cry out for me. I don’t know if it is because he is adopted or because we know he is our last child, but I take nothing from him for granted. Every kiss, every, “I love you,” is a gift. When he cries out, “Mama!” as I see him through the small window on the other side of the door, my heart breaks just as it fills to hear that word — it is such a prestigious and wondrous thing to be a mother, his mama.
My boy’s pleading call of “Mama!” is everything to me right now. It is my role, my identity, my job. When I hear it I transform into that sobbing Sally Field winning her Oscar and shouting out “And I can’t deny the fact that you like me! Right now you like me!” If I were to swap out the word “like” for “need” that could be me, standing on the other side of the door watching my boy try and cope as I let him go, humbled and honored that he needs me, certain there is nothing greater I will ever experience than being needed by my little ones.
And so, I let them go. Because it is what they need.