Samantha leaving for camp

Samantha leaving for camp this past Monday

So, it’s the end of the school year. Many of you are celebrating kindergarten or high school graduations and every other kind of milestone in-between. If you’ve got a few tissues left and want to keep that nostalgic feeling going, this re-post about letting go of our children grow up is dedicated to you…

This week, my 18-year old daughter, Samantha, has been away at camp. A few months ago, she interviewed to be a 5th grade camp counselor and was thrilled to be selected.

My soon-to-be-graduated senior bolted from my car on Monday with a big smile on her face. As she grabbed her bags and slammed the car door (because SOMEONE doesn’t have her license yet…) Samantha’s final words were: “Have a great week, Mom. Don’t miss me.”

I have missed her this week. And, I’ve also realized that the time is quickly approaching that I will be missing her much more and often. She graduates from high school at the end of next month and my second child will be off to begin her life.

“Don’t miss me, Mom…”

Springtime always reminds me that life is meant to grow and blossom. Even our kids…

Samantha, Abigail and Kate - Christmas 2000

Sami, Kate and Abbie – Christmas 2000

When my girls were babies, there was no Facebook or any other social media. Which meant that there was no reason to take weekly photos of my little Roosters spread on a pretty blanket with a chalkboard or ABC blocks with their ages on it.

But, I did have a disposable Fuji camera, y’all. Only 2 out of the 24 pictures ever turned out nicely, but those memories were captured just the same. I’ve got stacks of slightly blurry, kinda dark photos of some very special moments.

First smile…first up-the-back diaper blowout…first jar food…first sleeping in the crib…first ride on the tricycle…first unplanned haircut…

Back then, motherhood was all about getting my children to those “first” moments. “When will they…?” was always on my mind. The thrill of motherhood meant that I couldn’t wait for those “first” moments.

That is, until those “first” moments started to take my girls away from me…

Matt, Kate and Samantha on Kate's first day of kindergarten. Seems like yesterday...

Matt, Kate and Samantha on Kate’s first day of kindergarten. Seems like yesterday…

Mamas, remember those first steps? Remember the moment when your little one let go of your fingers? Your heart burst with pride and fear at the same time. Those first steps away from you were the best and worst moment of your life. As much as you embraced your child’s new journey, there was something deep inside that urged you to push that baby down and tie him or her to a safety seat. Go, go, go…no, stay with me…

Once our kids start moving on their own, it just seems that they are constantly moving away from us. And we want them to go. But, we want them to stay, right?

While writing this post, my oldest daughter emailed me to let me know that she’s going to New Mexico this summer. That’s in addition to her trip to South Korea and two weeks of training. So, this summer, she’ll be home for only five days. Less than 150 hours.

“Don’t miss me, Mom…”

Over the years I’ve discovered that ‘letting go’ is a season all it’s own. We don’t just let go on any given day. Instead, there are many, many letting go moments. Good moments that taste bittersweet. Good moments that make us smile and cry at the same time. Like the last time we nurse our babies or the day we dismantle the crib. Letting go moments when they go on the first sleepover or finish that big project on their own.

The year that my oldest daughter turned 16 was horrible. I knew that one day she would want to drive away without me. In my nightmares and daydreams, I could only think of her getting into a car accident and being taken from me. I didn’t want her to drive, but she insisted on getting her license.  Months later, she hoped into the car and drove away on her own. Just like that.

I let go. (And I survived.)

After two decades of parenting, I finally settled into the realization that “letting go” is a season because it takes time for us mamas to do it. We don’t just wake up one morning and feel okay with the speed at which our children are growing up. We’re thrilled when they learn to tie their shoes, ride to the end of the block or stay over night. Yes! But, we struggle against the place that says It’s going so fast… Yep, it is.

And as much as want our kids to burst into independence and find their place in the world, deep in our hearts, we want to tie our children down to keep them close forever. But, we know that’s not love. That’s not what they need. We need to let go.

So, if you are like me and these days your children are growing up, smile. They are doing exactly what you’re nurturing them to do – even if right now they are making decisions that hurt your mama heart. They are taking on the world, whether they are scooting, crawling, walking, running, driving or flying away from you. You can’t always go with them, but your love is indelibly stamped on their lives. They’ll always take a piece of your heart whereever they go.

Samantha graduation on June 1. Photo Credit: Jeff Wirebaugh, MD

Samantha graduation on June 1. Photo Credit: Jeff Wirebaugh, MD

This summer, I’ll hold my breath while one piece of my heart criss-crosses the country for a few weeks before heading overseas. Another piece of my heart will cross a high school graduation stage and search for her place in the world (and I’ll embrace my role as an advisor on the sidelines). A third piece of my heart will travel to summer camp and to a lot of sleepovers. Don’t miss me, Mom!

I’ll try not to, honey…

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