Motherhood Lessons in Loving and Letting Go

I stood watching my daughter Sarah go through security at the airport. I waited until I could no longer see her as she made her way to the boarding gate. When she finally disappeared from view, I telephoned her to tell her to have a safe trip and how proud I was of her. As I walked away I headed for a place where I could see her plane take off.

Motherhood is a never-ending lesson in letting go. Today was the first time Sarah flew alone, she was off to visit a college friend. I found a comfortable spot on the highest level of the airport and waited for her plane to taxi to the runway for take off. At the airport there are sounds of nature welcoming guests to our environment of parks and lakes. The nature sounds were mostly sounds of birds chirping. The sounds brought me back to another chapter. As I looked out the window I remembered Sarah at just four years old at the bird aviary in Hong Kong Park. Floods of memories came to mind of other chapters strong in lessons of letting go. I cried as the emotions welled up and got the better of me, as I got lost in dreaming about her as a little girl.

When Sarah was two months old we visited the Pediatrician for a “baby well visit” when she had her first in a series of child-hood vaccinations. As the doctor gave her the shot, I remember I cried instinctively. I went home and telephoned my mother and apologized to her for thinking that when she cried all those times I had thought that she was weak. I knew on that very day that my mother cried because she was in love. I had never experienced the invisible umbillical cord before but after that I experienced it’s bonding connection forever.

I thought about Sarah’s first day of nursery school. The day I waved goodbye as she got on the school bus to the Hong Kong International School in Hong Kong. The first sleep-over at a friend’s house, and her first school trip. Watching her take riding lessons all those years, praying that she wouldn't fall off the horse. So much letting go. I believe the biggest challenge for me was when we went to look at colleges. Watching her walk away like today. Happy for her independence, yet longing for the days when she was just four years old in Hong Kong Park admiring all the birds in the aviary.

I watched her plane taxi to the runway and then take off. It was an overcast day, and I watched as she climbed higher and higher until the clouds embraced the plane. Visions of Sarah in the playground on the swings and her plea to me, ”Mommy push me higher, I want to go higher.” I thought about me all those years ago apprehensive as she climbed the steps to go down the slide. Did I ever think that I would be strong enough to let go as she flew away all alone for the first time?

I thought about the many photographs of the back of Sarah as she left me, one step at a time. It seems that as she stepped forward into a new adventure, I stepped back to let her grow. I was learning too, all the while as she became a young woman I grew up as well. She didn’t see the tears today, or know that when I stand encouraging her to enter new adventures, that I secretly wish she wasn’t leaving. That when I say “you can do it, you’ll be fine,” I am really dying inside and hoping that she will be okay.

I love the painting I did of her in the gardens of Hong Kong while she looked for frogs with her little sister. In those days I sat and watched as they scampered about with each other and friends. With a paint brush in one hand and a journal in the other, I recorded as much as I could. Memorizing each moment of each day. Cherishing motherhood and knowing that these chapters are more important than anything that I have ever done.

I thought about Sarah learning to drive and the first time she left to get into her own car and drive away. The photograph of her looking out at the ocean when we went to look at colleges brings back thoughts of how difficult it was to say goodbye. When I was watching Sarah as she negotiated the complicated task of flying today, I knew that it was another important milestone. All that I could see was the back of her as she went through security and fussed with plastic bags of wet things, laptop computers set aside just so, and placing her carry-on luggage on the conveyor belt. All that I could see was her blonde ponytail, that looked just like the one that she wore climbing the steps to that slide back when. Just like so many times before I stood by her while she learned to do something by herself. I thought that today is noteworthy, words in a journal, memories that are milestones for her and for me.

I suppose the next milestone of letting go will be when I watch her walk across the stage to get her college diploma, and when she leaves to live in her own place. The day she walks down the aisle when she marries will be another memory milestone. Motherhood, the most joyous adventure of my life. Lessons of loving, and lessons of letting go. Someday Sarah will telephone me from the Pediatrician’s office and say “Oh mommy now I understand you weren’t being weak all those times I saw you cry, you were just in love."

The music for this post is My Daughter
molly jean said...

Beautiful! I am facing a lot of letting go in these past few years. My second child, age 22, just took my baby, age 13 on his first plane flight last night. With 6 children, most of our trips have been in a suburban! It was a small airplane and the weather has been stormy. I was very relieved to get the phone call that they were safely at their dad's house in Houston.