Life has seasons — some joyful, some sad, and many that are a mixture of both. As I near 50, I find myself in a season of transitions. Gentle transitions such as watching my younger son move into high school. And heartbreaking transitions such as being part of the decision to move my father into hospice care. But today was a different kind of transition — a bittersweet moment that many parents experience this time of year — of launching my oldest son into the world. Today we dropped him at the airport for a flight to France where he will spend three months of his gap year — studying , doing community service projects and exploring the broader world.
The reality of this transition really hit me today. His graduation from high school a few months ago was also a big moment. Watching him stride across the stage with confidence and the promise of a life just starting was a momentous and important event in our lives. But, since life is messy, his graduation happened the same week that my father had brain surgery, we had guests in town and we were preparing to move into a new house post Hurricane Harvey. Graduation was a significant life event — a formal ceremony of transition and moving on — but it did not drastically change our daily lives. A week after graduation, we moved as an intact family of four into our new house and started to rebuild our sense of home.
Putting our son on a plane to cross the ocean to a new country was a different kind of transition. For the last 17 years, we had not been apart for more than a week at a time — now we are facing three months. And this is only the start of his independence — ultimately he will be moving on to college and building a life outside our immediate family.
I’ve always seen the role of a parent as being to raise successful, independent, happy and contributing adults. I think we accomplished that. This is the kid who got himself up every morning for four years of high school, rode his bike to school at 6:00 am, and ran 5+ miles for cross country practice before even starting classes. He is a terrific person and the world is fortunate to have him.
Tonight I look at his empty spot at the table and the abandoned socks on the floor and feel the loss — the loss of our intact family. What I know in my heart is that even if I was not ready for this, he is. He is ready to face the world and embrace the adventure. My job as a parent was to get him prepared for this moment. I can check that off of my life To-Do list — knowing that I still have a key role to support him through future transitions. But it is time to pause and reflect and celebrate the journey of the past 17 years that got us here. Now I can sit back (maybe wipe away a tear or two) and enjoy watching him grow and learn and fail and triumph as he finds his place in the world. This is his time. And I am proud.
Originally published at medium.com