Then you embrace.
Your heart can feel theirs, beating faster.
As the hug grows longer, you dare to speak, defying the tennis ball in your throat that is barely holding back the dam.
You struggle to find words, some syllables that will cut through their fear, will into them some of your strength.
And in that moment, one of your weakest, as you’re feeling the pain of ripping a piece of your heart out, you do find strength.
Because you have to. Because this is your job, your privilege, your life’s best work.
Because you are a parent.
After so many goodbyes, one could be forgiven for thinking it gets easier. It does not. Especially when you are leaving them in a new place, facing new beginnings.
A wise friend wrote these words to me this morning as we commiserated via message while I waited for my flight. She, too, just experienced the pride mixed with pain as she left her daughter to begin her college journey.
“I was deep thinking this last night. Admittedly I’m not as eloquent as you both, but my takeaway is this - you can either love and then feel that deep, profound pain that goes with it when there’s “loss” or decide it is all too much and live in a void.
There’s no half-way when loving our people. Especially our kids. They are literally part of us. So we have those highest highs and the lowest lows.“
There is no half-way.
She is right. From the moment I first held them, I realized I was beginning my watch. Defending them with my life, giving them my life. Discovering I could love without limits, experience profound joy, crushing pain, and that I would never stop.
There is unmatched pride in seeing them excel, move forward, tackle life head on. It is what you have prepared them to do. But it means seeing the back of them as they walk away. It means they must see the back of you, too, as you leave them to their new world of discoveries.
You knowing they can do it is far different than them knowing they can do it. They must live it, feel it, wrestle it, best it first.
The hug continues, tighter, as you desperately try to transfer your strength, your support, your love.
You feel them shake, you hear them trying so hard to hold back the tears. Which only makes you want to cry even more.
You feel them melt into your embrace knowing they are caught in that brutal place between wanting to be an adult, yet yearning for the childhood safety found in your orbit, in your arms.
One more squeeze, one more whispered I love you, one more reminder that you are only a phone call away.
Then you let go.
Because you have to.
You smile. You turn. You walk away.
Then and only then, when they cannot see your face do you let the first tear fall.
And through your pained tears, there is a small smile born of pride, born of love.
In this moment, you feel it all, you have no choice.
There is no half-way.
This is parenting. ❤️
For Kendall, Kelly, Liz and every parent & child facing their fears and their goodbyes during this season of new beginnings.