They prepare you for the first goodbye. You know what to expect and you feel armed with tools to get you through. Lunches with friends, traveling, remodeling a room or two, finding new interests. It helps salve the parent-heart that suddenly feels so lost and empty.
But what we aren’t prepared for is the subsequent goodbyes that follow.
Those sting too. The goodbyes following the first big goodbye- that milestone departure- are different. Not easier, just different. Saying goodbye just seems to hurt.
Every. Single. Time.
Letting go with grace is hard… like heart-tugging hard. Like their-room-looks-empty-again hard. Like I-miss-all-the-chaos-and-noise hard. Like I-love-seeing-their-faces-everyday hard. Like why-do-they-have-to-grow-up-so-fast hard.
But also, we get to relish seeing them in this new light and letting go gracefully let’s us enjoy the emerging adults they are becoming and time with them feels like more fun than it is work.
Side note: it still is a lot of work but different work. We wash more towels, cook and clean way more, pick up more empty wrappers and water bottles and stay up later than before waiting to know they made it home safely. I’m convinced parenting will always involve some kind of “work”, it just changes with the seasons.
But the reality of each goodbye, sadly, can’t be ignored or hidden. We can’t run from it or deny it’s happening. And every time we say goodbye it’s another reminder….
They’re growing up.
As parents, we know one of our goals is to raise them so they are ready to leave us. We want them to chase independence, to fly the coop with confidence, to drive way and create their best journey. But every time they load up, pack up and head out, a little bit of their childhood leaves with them.
Who they are when they leave is not who they will be when they return.
As parents, we are all in this together. It’s a process none of us can avoid. Our circumstances might be different but our feelings are not. Whether your child is headed back to college or back to wherever they are stationed in the military or back to their job that is not close to you or back to a place they have set new roots down and now call home, whatever it is… we know the ache and pain and the empty feeling when they leave.
What I’m realizing is that as my kids grow up, so do I. And while I know both of us are going to be fine, it doesn’t take away from the fact I will still miss them.
But I promise them, with all my heart, that for the rest of their lives, my kids will always be my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.