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‘Facing the challenge of letting them go’

On a pleasant September afternoon in 1976 I sat in the sunlight finishing a costume for my little five-year-old son to wear in the children’s Parade at the Lunenburg Fisheries Exhibition. My baby girl was asleep, my husband at work, and it was quiet. Music drifted from the stereo, but my mind was not as settled as it should have been.

This was my little boys’ first day at school. I had walked him to the bus stop in the morning and coming back home I could not stop the tears, nor the fears, that this milestone was causing. I wondered how he would manage on his first school day, and how I would get through a long day without him. But I was busy with a toddler, and time passed fairly quickly. I seemed to be coping fairly well until my husband arrived home. He stood leaning on the door, watching me work on the costume. Then he spoke the words that brought all the tears to the surface.

"You miss him don’t you?", he asked quietly.

The next hour was a blur as I looked at the world through tears. My husband consoled me, then we worked together for a few minutes putting the finishing touches on our son’s bicycle. Completing the decorating was much more difficult with blurred vision. However I found myself laughing through the tears, my husband left to go back to work, the baby awoke, and in a short time John’s school bus was back.

We had all survived that first break, that first letting go, that first day apart. It was always John, Heather and Mom, together every day, while Dad went to work. I had taken a break in my career to be home with the children and I have never regretted doing so. I am grateful that I could be with them. As I look at them now at the ages of thirty-five and thirty-one, I realize that time spent with them was worth it’s seconds in diamonds.

This week the children are all decked out in new jeans, sneakers, beautifully colored backpacks and lunch kits, fresh hair cuts, wide smiles and for the occasional little children there are tears as they face their first days at school. A whole new world opens up for them, new friends to be made, new places to see, and new rules to follow. Some are more stressed than others, but they go and soon they are coming home with stories of their teacher, schoolmates, and grand chronicles of what someone did or didn’t do.

Life as a student has started for each child, and for each child going to school for the first time, there is a mother with a lump in her throat and an ache in her heart. Until now the children have been totally ‘Moms’ charges. But not anymore. The time has come to share them with the world, to encourage them to have wings, preparing them for flight eventually. But for these first few days the mother’s heart is aching. Something has come between her and the child whose life she holds dear, the child, from conception, made her forever more vulnerable, protective, and acutely aware of potential dangers.

However to hold them back, to not encourage their growth and development does them no favor. It is our duty to give them a stable home life, good food, care for their health and keep them safe. We create their roots by surrounding them with family, friends, books, music, and pets. We introduce them to the wonders of our world, and at the same time teach them safety rules and coping mechanisms to prepare them for life away from the cocoon of ‘home’.

My son was joined in school by his sister a few years later. He was ‘a big brother’, keeping a keen eye on his sister that he has always adored. Since that first day of school for my son many tears have been shed, many hilarious bouts of laughter have taken place, hundreds of good-byes have been muttered into coat collars, thousands of waves of hello and farewells, as they moved up through school, left for a center of higher education, then finally flying away to another province. Countless phone calls, sleepless nights, and reunions have taken place since then.

It has been thirty years since John took that first school bus ride. He paved the way for his sister who couldn’t wait to join him at school. Yes, many years since that question by my husband, their father, caused the tears to flow. He probably had tears too.

"You miss him don’t you?"

Yes, I did miss him, and I still do. I missed my daughter too on her first day of school. I miss them both to this day as they live so far away. I relive my son’s first day of school through my daughter sending her little girl off to school. Her and her husband are now facing the challenges of ‘Letting Go’, that we faced thirty years ago. My son and my daughter are part of me, as is my tiny grand daughter, and ‘Roots and Wings’ are what we, as parents, are obligated to give them.

The ‘Roots’ were easy at times, difficult at other times. Developing traditions as a family, growing and learning, riding out the rough spots, and helping each other created a strong bond and a close unit, giving them the tools that prepared them to leave the nest.

But the ‘Wings’- letting them go, taking flight with the very wings we gave them is by far the most difficult challenge. However, it has to be if they are to establish their own lives. Gradually we adjust, but we still long for the door to open and the lunch kit to come flying in, followed by the laughter and crazy jokes they brought home with them.

So, your child left for school, university, or a new job did they?

You will miss them, won’t you? It will be OK, you have given them their ‘Wings’.

It is how it is meant to be.

Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe