This week, I saw my 10 year old son off on his first overnight trip away from home. In our elementary school, the 5th graders are lucky enough to participate in a Nature’s Classroom experience. The students spend Tuesday through Friday at a camp in northwestern Connecticut hiking, stargazing, and learning about the natural world around us.
I had mixed emotions leading up to this trip. I was nervous because this was the longest he has been away from home without family. Would he remember to use soap in the shower? Would he put clean socks on? Would he get to sleep at a reasonable time? I was sad because of the milestone that this represented. My first baby was no longer a baby, and was embarking on his journey towards independence. I was also happy for him because he was so excited to be a part of the trip. What a wonderful time and experience this would be for him. He was so looking forward to this trip to be spent with his friends and classmates.
The night before he was leaving, as I watched the baby who had grown into a capable young boy help me pack his duffel, I became acutely aware of the passage of time. He’s TEN. Which means that we have already passed the half way point of the time he will be living with us. God (and bank account) willing, he will be leaving us for college when he is 18. I only have EIGHT more years with this wonderful boy, my sweet son. In those eight years we have to teach him how to live on his own, how to drive, how to do a load of laundry, how to cook a simple meal, how to be responsible for his assignments and schoolwork on his own. He needs to learn to manage money, he needs to learn how to change a tire, and how to use a hammer. My parents instilled in me and my two sisters the importance of self reliance, and I hope to pass this along to my children as well.
I was worried that as I saw my son off on the bus I would be emotional. But instead, I found myself strangely calm. I am deeply appreciative of the experience that he is participating in as I write this. After all, we are raising our children to one day leave us. This trip is his first baby step towards a necessary independence. I miss him dearly. I looked at his empty bed tonight and was tearful. I wonder what the bed he is lying in looks like. It’s a strange thing as a parent after spending his childhood controlling where he sleeps, what he eats, where he goes, to have suddenly lost complete control. So as much as the children on this trip are learning wonderful things about how to be independent, parents are also learning a lesson on how to let go.
When he returns at the end of the week, I wonder how he will have changed. I wonder how I will have changed. One thing is for certain, I am going to grab that boy and hold him tight. One day, I will have to let go completely, but for now I will welcome him back with open arms and cherish this time where I get to hold on a little longer.