A friend of mine recently mourned out loud on Instagram about Summer coming to an end and her daughter getting ready to start Kindergarten in a few weeks. Her sadness was palpable as she asked, “Mamas, how do you let them go?” Ah yes, one of the hard corners of motherhood where we must cross the intersection of our grief and our pride. On one hand, we love that they’re growing up into these strong, capable, unique, and wildly beautiful human beings. On the other hand we feel the change, like a punch to the gut, as though the grasp of their tiny little fingers is somehow becoming more elusive.
It’s hard. There’s no way around it. Just last year, my oldest slipped out of my embrace and walked into his first day of Kindergarten. I fought back the tears, just long enough for him to enter the building. And then the dam broke. I told my husband I needed to cross the street to put some distance between me and the other parents so their first impression of me wouldn’t be “that mom who ugly-cried all the way home.” In all fairness, I was 37 weeks pregnant. But still, it was bad.
And right then, that’s when my motto became: Honor Your Grief, Honor His Growth.
Honor Your Grief
Motherhood is composed of a million little seasons. Change is the one constant in this gig. And where there is change, inevitably, there is also loss. No matter how bright and wonderful the start of a new season is, it’s hard to let go of the sweet parts from the season that came before it. As time seems to go whizzing by and we see our kids growing up before our eyes, it’s only natural to feel some sadness.
The start of a new chapter, such as Pre-school or Kindergarten, is a big one, because they are forging their independence and becoming a little less in need of you. That can feel painful. After all, you’ve just spent the last however many years pouring your heart and soul into attending to their needs – literally feeding their mouths, wiping their bums, and kissing every little ouchy. It’s important to not only acknowledge your grief, but also to honor it.
C.S. Lewis once said, “The grief now is because of the joy then.” We wouldn’t feel the sadness now if there hadn’t been something truly wonderful about whatever it is we’re trying to let go of, and that is something to honor and celebrate. As hard as the days can be, there’s an indescribable sweetness that exists in the day-to-day moments with our littles. And that… that is what we mourn. Our sadness speaks to the strength of the relationship.
It doesn’t serve us to hide our sadness, to put on a happy face and pretend we don’t feel it. If we don’t honor our grief, we run the risk of holding on to our kids too tightly, of not letting go. And in doing so, we will take away their ability to fly.
Honor Their Growth
I remember feeling a little bit of heartache when my boys learned to say their “v”s and stop referring to vegetables as “beggies.” And I felt equal parts sad and relief when my son stopped needing me to help him brush his teeth. But can we all agree that we would not want our kids going off to college thinking they still needed us to assist in the brushing of their teeth?
To teach them life skills and foster their independence – that’s our jobs as moms. That’s why we feel excitement and pride at every milestone – their first steps, first days of school, learning to read, their first dance recital or 5k race, learning to ride a bike, the first time they swim the entire length of the pool, their first date, receiving their driver’s license, getting their first job, graduating from all the different places they may graduate from – because in our heart of hearts, we want them to grow and to succeed in this life. So, I say, celebrate the heck out of the little markers of growth along the way. And in doing so, we must respect their growing independence, their increasingly strong opinions, and their mounting confidence.