We parents are letting go from the very moment our children are placed into our waiting expectant arms. We start letting go when we leave them with their first babysitter or when we take them to day care for the first time. Then they learn to crawl. Then stand. Then walk. And in what seems like mere seconds later, they learn to run!
In their early days, they may sometimes have a problem letting us go and then we need to reassure them or take extra time saying goodbye. I remember needing to spray my daughter’s nap blanket with my perfume to ease her missing me.
My Daughter’s Nap Blanket
I remember all the little pulling away moments and the adjustments I had to make along the way.
When she was too old for bedtime stories and the bookmobile
When she didn’t want to hold my hand in public anymore
When I couldn’t kiss her goodbye at school
The slumber parties and overnights
When she was old enough to babysit or stay home by herself
When she got her driver’s license
Then the goodbyes became more frequent and the time away was for longer periods of time. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, it was time for college. She chose a university in a neighboring state and when they said yes, we headed to freshmen orientation. While she went off learning the ropes and touring the campus with all the other soon-to-be freshmen, I was with all the parents taking our own tours and copious notes about all the suggestions for transitioning to an empty nest. The well-seasoned university staff encouraged us to:
Make a CD of our favorite songs for the ride home after freshmen move-in day.
Schedule some pampering time.
Schedule dinners with friends.
Take up a hobby.
Take control of the remote.
Remember our child is adjusting too and to give them space.
When moving day came, we headed to college in our fully-loaded car with very limited visibility and I somehow made it through the whole move-in process with little more than a few choked-up, misty-eyed moments, but no tears. My daughter was surprised and also impressed. As we walked to our car to go to dinner, she told me again just how proud she was of me for holding it together. Then as we were leaving the campus parking garage, with me behind the wheel, the male parking attendant casually mentioned it was a nice day for moving and I burst into tears. My daughter leaned over to give him a cheerful reassuring response. She and I laughed the whole way to dinner and agreed it wouldn’t have mattered what that poor guy would have said to us, it probably would have had the same effect.
On my return trip home, this time in an empty car, I definitely had a few crying moments. But it wasn’t until almost two weeks later, while standing in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store when I realized I was now buying for one less person, that I burst into tears and then almost immediate laughter. I took the University’s advice. I scheduled dinners with friends and took back the control of the remote. I also wrote her letters and cards (lots of them). I called and texted and emailed. I tried to give her space. And I prayed for her, like I had done from the very day I found out I was expecting her.
Only the house was way too quiet and I missed her. It seemed everywhere I looked, I saw remnants of her. Hints of her perfume still lingered in her bedroom and I found myself lingering there too. On her bed was a favorite blanket she had left behind. I remember crawling into her bed one night, bundled under that blanket that still smelled like her and sleeping there. It helped me understand the comfort of another perfumed blanket from so many years before.
I remember feeling grateful for living in a time when communication and travel was relatively inexpensive and readily available. I found myself thinking about my own mother who left her home in Ireland for America and only returned once in 23 years.
I also remember a friend sharing that for the first few months after her son left home for college, she cried every single time she went by his bedroom. Just about the time she’d be adjusting to the empty nest, he’d come home for a weekend visit and it would happen all over again. But by the end of his summer home and tired of tripping over his shoes and all the stuff he’d left in nearly every room of their house, she would think, ‘Alleluia, he’s going back to school!’
I kept my daughter’s room intact for her visits home. Until after several college summers and the final one when she shared she wouldn’t be living at home again. I’ll never forget the day when I heard her speak of ‘home’ and realizing she wasn’t referring to our home, but her new apartment 6 hours away. She had spread her wings and learned to fly.
There’s a saying. If you love something, let it go. If it returns, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.
I’m thinking if it returns with laundry in hand and a ready hug, along with a pile of stuff to hopefully store in your basement for an indefinite period of time…then, it is most definitely yours.