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There are two times of the year that I help parents through hard goodbyes.
The first round is in the fall, as they drop off teary, sad, and scared kids at a new school, or in a new classroom.
The second is in May, as parents are the ones with tears. We say goodbye to our beloved preschools – leaving the safety of that playground we know so well and those teachers who have loved and guided our children so beautifully.
Or we help our children say goodbye to a beloved elementary teacher, a friend that’s moving away, or just a stellar year that changed them in extraordinary ways.
And then there is the big one. High school graduation.
This May I find myself the one in need of support, as I watch my young daughter leave the halls of her beloved elementary school, walking towards her next big journey in middle school. And, the big one. My son graduated from high school Friday evening.
I’ve been riding the emotional swells for weeks, letting the waves of grief, pride, worry, and excitement rise and fall inside my heart. It’s enough to break a mama’s heart.
And as I watched my son cross that stage and get his diploma, my heart heaving with equal parts loss and thrill, I could still see the little three year old boy in him. That young man walking so confidently away from me was the same scared little boy who cried and begged me not to leave the playground.
I smiled as I remembered the advice I once got when he was that scared little boy, and which I still give to tender parents to this day. Except this time, it’s me that’s crying.
So here’s some of that advice, but I give it to all the sons and daughters out there, whether they’re 5 and leaving their preschool or 18 and leaving home.
Although your parents are sad, and scared, and might wish you could stay longer on that playground –
your job is to offer a big hug, tell them you love them, that you’ll be back, and say goodbye anyway.
Remember that your parents might have all kinds of feelings.
They might be sad, or quiet, or scared, or just want to run under the playscape and hide.
Some of these feelings might not make any sense to you, but you don’t need to understand them.
Just offer love and compassion, and say goodbye anyway.
When you come back to visit that playground, you might find that your parents cry again,
and you might be confused about why. But remember that they’re ok.
They’ve just been saving many, many moments of missing you….
….and seeing you again reminds them of the times you weren’t there.
And though they seem so tender, and you wonder if they’re ok….say goodbye anyway.
To all the graduates, big and little, who are beginning their next journey….remember this moment. Remember the day you step off of one playground and enter another, for in this moment you can see both everything you’ve learned and all that is coming next. It’s a important time.
And to all of us tender parents out there, I wish us courage. We need to remember that the ferocious love that kept us bound to our child…as we protected them, nurtured them, guided them…is the same love that requires we let them go.