Sixteen years ago, my bright-faced, smile-to-the-world, cherub of a last child toddled off into the arms of Mrs Dick, Mrs Donnelly and Mrs Dawson at Creative Child Nursery School.
Juggling home-based self employment with raising of children, I’d happily succumbed to two mornings of nursery school and Kid Two responded with glee.
As she put her little hand in the hand of her new ‘teacher’ I felt that pang, familiar to every parent on Labour Day Tuesday.
Years earlier as I walked Kid One up to Kindergarten on his first day, he looked up at me as the school came into sight. “Are you sure you can handle this, Mom?” he asked. “Maybe you should just kiss me goodbye right here, and then you can walk home and I’ll go the rest of the way.”
The wisdom of a five year old.
When Kid Two started Kindergarten six years later at the same school, she walked up the street with her blessed friend, Valerie, and holding hands, they entered the big world together.
This week, Valerie called to say goodbye as she headed off to her college and Kid Two finished loading the van for her college location three hours north. They still kind-of did it together.
Next phases… nursery school, kindergarten, camp, high school, travel, college… does the lump in the throat ever NOT be there? Does the heart ever control itself from tears? Do you EVER reach the stage where you celebrate the letting go?
I don’t think so…
It’s the dichotomy between excitement and sadness, where we, and our children, lie suspended between the excitement of the next step, and the grief for the ending of the step that went before. As parents, did we do it right? Do they have enough? Self esteem? Confidence? Connection? Resolve? And isn’t this what parenting is… the giving of roots and of wings? As kids, can I do this all by myself, suspended as I am between child and adult.
And so, for all the little people heading off on first flights… fly well. And for all those parents drying a tear in the distance, it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to mourn the ending. But it’s important to smile through our tears as we herald next steps, the wings part of the flight! Fly well, Kid Two, and the years ahead will bring much happiness.
Funny thing… that’s exactly what my Dad said to me 34 years ago.
Thanks, Em. Thanks, Dad.