I saw my oldest son driving down the driveway through my office window. I was in a video meeting, which is no doubt why he didn’t say goodbye.
I thought about texting him to ask where he was going, but did not, because I didn’t want to tempt him to text and drive. I thought about texting his brothers, to ask if they knew, but again, did not.
While I think it’s common courtesy to let people in your household know when you’re leaving and when you plan to be back, it is also common courtesy not to interrupt your mom during a video meeting.
Besides, in nine days, Oldest will be moving to college, 1,000 miles away.
Once he’s gone, I will have no idea where he’s going, who he’s with, what he’s doing, when he’s returning, or why.
That’s an awful lot of letting go.
However, a lifetime of letting go has prepared him—and me—for this time.
Early on with his daycare providers, I had to let him go. I had tried working around him when he was first born, but it wasn’t realistic. I couldn’t work and be a mom simultaneously. It wasn’t fair to my baby or my work.
Later, when I became a single parent. I had to let my oldest and his brother go every other weekend and one night a week to their dad’s house. Their dad had started using alcohol and drugs (which was part of why I became a single parent). He swore he wouldn’t do that around the kids, so, personally, I was relieved when canceled his visitation or no-showed (though I know it was hard on the kids). After the time, Oldest told me, “Dad wouldn’t wake up,” I got the boys a flip phone. Some people judged me for getting a second-grader a phone. Others judged me for not withholding visitation. Not only did I have to let go of everyone’s judgment, but also, I had to let go of my kids every time they were with their father.
Much later, I had to let go as Oldest spent progressively more time away from home at the camp he had attended every summer since he and his brother were six and five respectively; first at overnight camp, then in a five-week leadership development program, and ultimately, when he was 16, for the entire summer as a full-time employee. I saw him some weekends, but not every.
And then . . . he got his license. While it was a relief that I no longer had to drive him to and from the private high school he chose to attend—I got back two hours of my day—I wound up really missing the time we had spent together in the car. The school was just a few towns over, but happened to be across a state line, so that was a whole new world for us. I had to let go of the fact that I didn’t know any of his friends or their families —one of whom he has vacationed with for the past four summers—and sometimes the events he was attending were as many as 30 miles away from home, or in the case of his vacation, 130+ miles away.
I know a lot of parents who put tracking mechanisms in place so they could monitor their kids’ whereabouts at all times. For example, there was the dad who scolded his son for crossing the street in the wrong place on the way home from middle school, and a mom who chastised her son for speeding as she watched his driving process in real-time on a smartphone app. I never did that.
I did ask my son to check in when he got to school the first few times he drove himself. When he forgot, I did not text him. Not right away, anyway. I might have sent him a message when I knew he’d be at lunch. Ultimately, I consoled myself with, “If there was a problem, the school would call.” I had to let it all go.
Letting him go has instilled a sense of confidence in my son. I doubt he would have chosen a school 1,000 miles away if he didn’t feel like he could handle where he’s going, who he’s with, what he’s doing, when he’s returning, or why on his own.
Of course, letting go is not always easy. I invested in waterproof mascara for his high school graduation, and I’ll be packing it for our trip to college orientation weekend. But letting go is essential in order to allow our kids to be fully functioning adults.
And isn’t that our job, as parents?