If there's one thing that they don't prep us mamás for, is the inevitable separations from our kids that we have to go through at different points in our lives. It's something that I've been thinking about a lot now that Alec, who's with me in the photo here, is starting college.
Seeing him so happy, just a step away from his brilliant future makes this mother feel proud beyond words. What I want most is to know that he's happy and to see him succeed. It's not much different from his first day of Kindergarten when he was so happy when I left him at his new school.
So why does my heart feel so heavy? How do I deal with this new separation? The following lessons I learned thanks to him, after I brought him to his Kindergarten class 13 years ago. I hope they help me (and that they help you too!) to face this new challenge.
- We have to let them grow up. I remember Alec hugging my legs that first day of school when he was a little boy, but even then he used to feel like a "big boy." In his new backpack he carried his empty notebooks, all of them waiting for the lessons he would soon begin to learn. Today, he's all grown up, un hombre hecho y derecho, and his suitcases are full of life experiences which will be joined by so many new ones in the coming years. It's good for me to remember that the natural progression of things has to be respected, and be happy for him as he continues to grow.
- Don't miss an opportunity to still teach him. Starting at a new school, and for Alec entry into his college world, is a symbol of independence. I have taken advantage to share some advice (how to manage his money, what his priorities should be, how to do his own laundry!) and give him some tools with which to forge his own way. It's a good way to let him know I'm here and that my advice is something that he'll be able to count on forever.
- Stop being an over-protecting mami! He sees opportunity, newness, everything that's yet to be discovered. I see all that too, but my overprotective mom side also sees a possible fall, the hurt, and the tears that I won't be there to dry. The reality is that this separation is surely more painful for me than it is for him, so it's better for me to let him know I'm here, even from far away, to be his support and his comfort whenever he needs it.
Even though this is a new phase full of challenges and adjustments for the entire family, it's also a reason to be thankful and celebrate. My son may not belong to me, but my heart will always belong to him.
Note to my son: You're an amazing young man—sensitive, generous, able, and smart—with a brilliant future ahead of you. Beyond your achievements and successes, you've been able to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and stay humble, giving more of yourself to others than you expect others to give to you. Thank you for the many more lessons that you've taught me than I have taught you. I'm going to miss you more than you can even imagine. Call me once in a while. I love you unconditionally.
Image via Johanna Torres