Growth Spurts: Letting Go
This month my daughter Callie will start her freshman year at Mississippi College. In June we spent a couple of days at Orientation, where they wisely separated the incoming freshmen from their parents. The students got to attend sessions on student life, getting connected, and registering for classes; the parents got to attend sessions on paying for college, student safety, and student health services. I would rather have attended the student sessions, but that didn’t seem to be an option.
One of the most impactful sessions for parents was the one on letting go. I’m pretty sure there were some tears flowing during this one. In our heads, we all know that letting go is good and right and what is supposed to happen, but our Mama and Daddy hearts beg to differ. We haven’t prepared for this! Or have we…?
I vividly remember the first time I left Callie with a babysitter. She was only a couple months old, so there wasn’t really a lot of complicated instruction to offer the sitter. But I somehow managed to write a page and a half of instructions. That babysitter is probably still laughing at me, but she was very gracious at the time and understood that this was a scary first time for me to let go–to let Callie out of my sight and out of my protection and care.
If you’re still laughing at my dissertation for the babysitter, just wait. There’s more. When Callie was four years old, I took her to her first Vacation Bible School. It was not with the church that we were part of, so it was not a familiar environment. I sat in on the opening session and watched Callie from across the room as she sang and clapped. She was loving it! And I was in tears at how “grown” she was as I left her in that building in someone else’s care.
Still laughing at me? Well, now we come to the first day of kindergarten. VBS was one thing, but kindergarten?! This was an entirely different circumstance. This was 7:30-2:30, Monday-Friday, for nine months! And I would be nowhere in the building!
(Okay, okay, I have to admit here that after the initial few days of getting through the shock of a school year, I didn’t mind it so much. In fact, I came to look forward to the start of the school year as I experienced more and more of them. You understand.)
The next big step in the practice of letting go came with summer camp at Twin Lakes in Florence, MS. Now she was going to be away from me–not even coming home at night–for an entire week! And we would not be able to communicate with each other at all. Thankfully, Twin Lakes has a camp photographer, and they help the parents by posting each day’s pictures on a website for us to see. I spent a lot of time poring over those photos in search of my daughter’s face and felt a great sense of relief when I found that face covered in a smile.
And so we’ve made it through babysitters, VBS, elementary school, middle school, high school, camp, and a host of other things–all successfully. With every little step, we have each gained more confidence in her growing independence. I will probably continue to worry some, and I can’t guarantee that I won’t cry on college move-in day, but it would seem that I have actually been preparing to let go. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but I’m hoping it will help.