[The following column was printed in The Forum, North Dakota’s largest daily newspaper, on September 10, 2013. Reprinted with permission.]
Parenting Perspectives: Seeing the Revolving Door of our Kids’ Lives
By: Roxane B. Salonen, The Forum
This week my friend’s firstborn started kindergarten. Seeing the precious photos of him on Facebook with his sweet grin and thumbs-up, and reading how his mom made it to the car just before the torrent of tears began, brought it all back.
Back 12 years ago to when I helped my firstborn hoist his backpack upon his shoulders and lovingly launched him into his first day of the rest of his life.
The night before that first day of kindergarten, I felt perplexed over why some moms cry at this point. My son was about to enter a new and exciting chapter. Tears might come but they’d be tears of joy, I was certain.
But then, whoosh, the front doors of the school opened and my own school years rushed back at me, and that’s when I knew. All those mothers with tear-stained faces in all those first-day moments were suddenly, completely, perfectly reasonable.
I was standing solidly now, with no way out, in the middle of my first real public letting-go.
Letting go of his hand so another could take it; letting go of our lazy mornings with him and his sisters watching cartoons while I folded laundry; letting go of my hourly, protective eyes and arms.
I’d have to trust him to the world now and that’s no small thing.
Flash-forward to the present day: that same little blonde boy stands at least as tall, maybe an inch or two more, than his father, and he’s just stepped into his senior year. He’s the age I was when I started college.
Whoosh. Another door opens, in he goes, and we’re a level deeper now.
This latest milestone has come on the heels of another. Around mid-summer, our “baby,” now 8, quit sneaking into our room in the middle of the night and wriggling in between his father and me.
It was bound to happen. I knew and dreaded it. I’m a mother who has liked her babies close by and curled in. When I realized it had been a few days, and then a week, I felt the loss from a deep, interior place.
But there was no wailing, just a moment of pause and a little conversation in my head. “You knew this was coming, and it’s all as it’s supposed to be.”
Whoosh. The revolving door opens, circles round and opens again to this amazing journey of parenting that has us pulling life into ourselves then releasing that same life into a wider reality – the place it was meant to go all along.
I’m grateful for good friends a few steps ahead of me. One in particular has shared how much she adores having young-adult children in her life.
“It’s an adventure,” she says, explaining that each new thing they do in the world – city discovered, job acquired, significant person introduced – becomes a gain for the entire family.
I want this, too. I don’t want each whoosh to be a cause for grief. Yes, it is a loss and only fair I take a moment to feel that. It’s OK to acknowledge that each whoosh comes with a small burst of sadness.
But I don’t need, nor want, to stay in that place for long. If I do, I’ll almost certainly get stuck in the middle of the revolving door. And I won’t notice then that on the other side of that door, another beautiful beginning awaits; one I’ll miss if my head stays down.
Whoosh. It’s more the sound of life than loss and it’s all good – just exactly as it’s meant to be.
Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, parent five children.