I did my annual hike and cry around the hill today. My oldest started high school last week (HIGH SCHOOL) but I was prepared, I was ready. I dropped her off at a friend’s house so they could carpool together, and I may have welled up a little as she walked away, but no real waterworks. Besides, I had the boy for another week — summer lite.
But the boy went off today. Bravely, considering he’s starting a new school without his close compadre of friends, the friends who have known him almost his entire life. So we dropped the girl off, and then jaunted down the highway to his new school, and in the rush of finding where he should be and seeing people I hadn’t seen all summer, the moment where he actually left slipped away. And I was fine.
Until I got in the car and nobody else was there.
There was nobody to argue about what radio station to listen to, to roll their eyes when I played our summer theme (the entire Hamilton album) again, to remind me to cue up the book on tape or pass the tissues or the hand sanitizer or the box of granola bars. And for about 15 seconds, it was wonderful.
And then I cried.
Because I can see the end, clearly now. We’re hurtling toward it like the drop-off of a roller coaster, we’re strapped in and prepped for go and there’s no turning back, no way to get off. Any lessons they haven’t learned (put your clothes away, make your bed, hug your brother, hug your sister, be kind, be true to you, look for the helpers in times of crisis, in times of crisis be a helper, love learning for learning’s sake), any wisdom I still have to impart, needs to be communicated now. Because tomorrow is coming up fast. And because my time with them, which once stretched ahead like the ocean, has become fleeting.
Friends took their kids to college this weekend. Some to colleges around the corner from them, some to colleges hours away. All of them are great kids, and the parents all texted me the same thing, more or less: “He/she is so happy. They’re ready for this.”
The parents were happy as well, but sad in a way that was deeper, that a hike around the lake on a rainy day couldn’t fix. Because parenthood is the only job where, if you do it well, if you put your entire heart and soul into it, at the end the best result you can hope for is to be let go, to become obsolete. To watch your kids smile hugely as they walk away from you, because they’re excited and able to take on what’s coming next. I realized today that all these past Septembers have been practice for the upcoming big one, the ones my friends are already facing. But I think my heart has known this for years.
Which is why I’ve cried.