Last week, I drove to my son’s apartment to help him move out after completing his undergraduate work at college. On the way home, I stopped in front of his freshman dorm and spent a few minutes looking at the window where he spent that first year away from home.
I remembered sitting there four years earlier after dropping him off for the first time, looking at that same window and wondering what was going to happen to him. Feeling like I was abandoning him, even though I knew that wasn’t the case at all. Maybe, it was more a feeling of losing a part of myself.
Such powerful feelings! And I felt them again when I dropped my daughter off at a different college two years later.
Those feelings have been refreshed the last few weeks. Friends have posted comments about their tough moments when they took their children to preschool and left them for the first time, or took them to first grade, or sent them off for their freshman year in high school, dropped them off for that first year of college, drove them to the airport so they could start their career in the service. So hard when you walk away! Those moments bring a tear to our eyes and send a shiver through our souls, don’t they?
Have you experienced this? What did you feel when you dropped them off? A discomforting sense of change in your life? Maybe a feeling of helplessness? A disappointment that you wouldn’t be there with them as they have new experiences, some good and some frightening?
Part of it, I think, is that we realize they are no longer so much in our hands as in the hands of someone else. And that scares us.
We drop them off, and they’re in the hands of others who can inspire them and care for them and love them — or ignore them or take advantage of them. Will they choose to care for them as deeply as we do? Will they listen to them and dote on them and pay attention to them the way we’ve done all these years? Will they love and care for them as their own children?
As I asked those questions, the questions turned back on me.
I realized that other parents are hoping that I will love and care for their children just as they do. There are so many moments every day when someone else’s child is in my hands. Do I recognize this? Do I choose to see them and love them that way?
In reality, our hands are never empty, even when it feels like we’re letting go of someone so special to us. We open our hands and give our children as a gift to the world. And in the same moment, we find our hands filling up with so many others — the children of others, the parents of others, the brothers and sisters of others.
Will we treat them with the same love and care that we give to our own children and parents and sisters and brothers? Will we treat everyone as family?
We have so many others in our hands. Our hands are never empty, and we are never on our own. We’re always in the hands of Someone who invites us to open our own hands and let others in.
Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest.
Image: 'Let Go' illustration, Alice Day / Shutterstock.com