As you send your children off to school in this new season, perhaps you’re one of the ones who is ready, and happy, and content in the fact that the chaotic schedule of summer is over and you’re back in your routine. Or perhaps you have a child just entering kindergarten for the first time and you cannot bear to say goodbye. I’ve talked to both kinds of moms. One father told me that he pulled over on the side of the road after he dropped his child off at college for the first time, and he sobbed in his car for three hours.
This letter is for you, no matter who you are. In life there are moments when we have to say goodbye. You will handle it however you want, and you might even be judged, but it’s your life.
I have never been able to handle the pain of goodbye, so I just don’t say it. When it was time for my child to go off to kindergarten, I just could not even imagine saying goodbye. I know that my perspective was quite different than most people, considering how I grew up. I know that because of my father’s own choice, to not say goodbye, but to exit this world unexpectedly, that I value each and every coming and going as if it’s the very last time I might see you. I realize that’s not normal, but it’s me.
How well do you say goodbye?
I’ve often been told that I am cold almost in how I exited relationships. I think I just processed the goodbye longer and alone, silently grieving or crying inside, months before I ever exited.
I have had several major long-term relationships where I just left, after two years or five. If things weren’t working out I often ruminated on it for six or seven months. I grieved, even as I threw a surprise birthday party for the man I knew I was going to leave. Then one day we had a fight and I just left.
You can call it cowardly. Though I would suspect that most of you would not call the exit of Robin Williams cowardly.
When a fast exit occurs, we somehow say it’s OK if it’s crouched in a disease like depression. However, that exit is often planned, months or years in advance. The individual has thought about it long before they exit stage left. I don’t know about you but I’m not good at the pain of goodbye. If you ever had the pleasure of coming to dinner at my home, you would not hear me say goodbye when you crossed that threshold to leave. As you walked down the winding path in the moonlit night to your car, you might hear me call after you a few times, because people who have difficulty saying goodbye often prolong your exit. You will see us standing in the lit foyer, watching you. We will never just close the door.
As you look back, open your car door, and slip inside you might hear me saying something like, drive safely, or we had a wonderful time, but you will never ever hear me say goodbye.
It’s because I know how precious life is and I do not take one second for granted. I know that when you drive away it might be the last time I’ll see you or that you may not be as lucky as I was, the day the semi avoided rear ending me.
I don’t say goodbye because I can’t.
My father committed suicide when I was seven and he never said goodbye. Rumors are that he wrote a letter, but everyone in the family said it was misplaced and no one could find it. Of course we all had our own conspiracy theories about it. Mine is that the letter was just too difficult for anyone else to bear, and whoever found it threw it away or burned it in the fire.
Whatever the reason, his goodbye has impacted my life forever.
Yes, I am healed and blessed.
Yes, I am raising warriors.
No, I will never ever leave them without a goodbye.
We are all a product of our parent’s decisions, good and bad. It does not matter what choice you make for your own children, as long as it’s truly the best one for you and for them.
I never understood those moms that I overheard at target, saying, I just can’t wait for the kids to go back to school. I’m the kind of mom that literally has every day planned out for the next six years. I know that when my oldest goes off to college, I will have to let go in some form or fashion. I may not collect a goodbye. I may call it something else, but I will have to let him soar and become who he is meant to be. However, I’m the mom with the jellybean jar numbered in days, the one that wakes up thinking of this day as the most important day of my life. Because it could be our last. But if it’s not, it’s the first day of the rest of our lives.
As you send your child off to school, whether it’s kindergarten, or sixth grade, or high school or college, I want you to know that my heart is with you. If you’re one of the strong ones, who is glad to see them out the door and on the school bus headed to their classroom where they will learn and grow, you probably think I’m an alien and may not have gotten anything I’ve just said. I honestly pray to be a little bit more like you someday. A woman once told me that her children had all gone off to college and I said, oh my gosh, how are you dealing with that? She perked up and smiled and said fantastic! I love my life and my house is clean. No matter how hard I tried I could never wrap my brain around that. I went home that night, tripped over a toy car and a Nerf gun. Instead of picking it up I left those Nerf bullets all over the floor.
I am not saying my way is better, we are all a kaleidoscope of our own emotions and experiences. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be criticized for not being able to manage the distance between me and my kids as effective as other women. But luckily we all get to make our own choices.
This is a photo of my friend’s young son writing on his father’s casket. She woke up one day and her young husband didn’t. Life can change in an instant. What was important today may be lost tomorrow.
We have the freedom to choose how we want to raise our families.
But if you’re one of the ones who has a hard time with goodbyes, I know that there’s others like you. I am here for you. Treat each day like it is precious. Because it is.