20 August 2014
As I write this I am days away from delivering my daughter to her freshman year in college. On the positive side, I am really not worried about her. She is strong and resourceful. She is in touch with her own emotions and has techniques for coping with her feelings when they become strong. She is a problem solver. Knowing all that, however, does not ease my fear of how much I am going to miss her. She is a great person, lots of fun and with good insights. I really enjoy spending time with her and hearing her views on things. Why wouldn't I miss her?
But letting go of a child is more than letting go of a friend. It marks the end of a career stage for me, as I certainly count parenthood has a career. Since her conception, she has been on my mind. It has been my job to track her--to track where she is, who she is with, and how she is doing emotionally. Divorce and the reality of shared custody affected how I could do that in a day-to-day way but it does not change the essential responsibility. While I have been tracking her, most every decision I have made large and small has been through the filter of whether my actions will affect her and if so how. How will that begin to change?
So, I am having a hard time with the idea of letting go. As I look back, however, I realize that her entire life has been an exercise in letting go. Here I am reminded of the passage from Kahlil Gibran's "On Children":
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
Well, it is all very good to be told that they come "not from you," but that is not the way it felt to me! The first letting go was surrendering the child of my womb to the outside world--to doctors and nurses and shots and syringes (she had no suck reflex). Next I had to give her to her father, to relatives, to friends and to baby sitters. And even as an infant, she began to take herself away from me. As soon as she could crawl, she would crawl away--to the other end of the room, out the door, into the garden--blissfully unconcerned with whether her mother was following her. Emotionally, she was soon ready to set her will against mine, to teach me early and well that though she came "through" me, she is not me. She has her own opinions, her own likes and dislikes, her own way of doing things.
Never once has she showed anxiety about departing. She didn't cry or fuss when left at preschool and was entirely unphased about about starting nursery school. Kindergarten presented some problems but only because she chafed at having to sit down for so long. She raced off to a month of sleep away camp with utter glee in middle school and to various travel/study programs during high school. In short, she has showed me consistently that she has no problem going.
So why am I so bereft at her leaving? I should be proud of the job I have done. I have fostered a thoughtful, independent citizen who will go out and add enormous value to the world. She will bring compassion and wisdom and a joie de vivre to all of her endeavours. I am proud. I really am.
But I feel like a piece--perhaps the best part of me--is being torn from me. And I have to smile and let her go.
Wish me luck!