I just received a note from a friend from Seattle who is driving his eldest son to Wheaton College in Illinois to begin his freshman year. Any parent who has driven that particular route will understand why my friend asked if we could schedule a necessary business call during his return trip home. He claims it will be a welcome break from the ubiquitous signs for the infamous Wall Drugs, but I suspect he might also appreciate the sympathies of a mother who well remembers what it was like to send my kids cross-country for school. Another friend recently wrote an essay about sending her son off to the same college that his older sister was attending when she died suddenly of unexpected illness. My friend wants to lift her son up into the winds of life and let him soar, but oh how hard it is. Last week, a friend I hadn’t seen for years, an old man now, asked me how I felt when Todd left on his two-year round-the-world sailing trip. As he asked detail after detail I realized that in his mind he was detailing the events surrounding a similar trip his son took. How many decades had it been? Two? Three? Yet, how quickly the details of that memory wrap around a moment, or twist through a conversation. Any experience of letting go of a child, whether for a year or for a lifetime, deeply marks a parent.
I have no children leaving for school or taking off on adventures this fall. But in honor of so many of my friends who do, I’m posting an article I wrote when Todd was leaving for his sailing trip. Click on the Articles page and under the Bits and Pieces header, read “Mothers and Sons and Letting Go.” Every time I read this article I feel like I’m right back there, talking myself into being braver and more mature than I want to be!