There are a lot of books written for parents at every stage of life, but I don’t think that I’ve come across anything that has quite prepared me for the transition of my first-born leaving home this fall. Granted, it’s gotten better since we all hugged and cried together on his campus and then drove away with him waving in the rearview mirror. I’ve pulled myself together since I went and watched Pete’s Dragon in a dark movie theatre on Labour Day and sobbed at the end because movies for kids are no longer the preferred choice in our family. I have made progress in the last 60 days, and our now smaller family of 3 has settled into a new routine. But I still cried this weekend when he left after reading week and proceeded to sad-eat an obscene amount of Halloween candy.
I know what you’re thinking. “Get a grip. Kids grow up. He can come home to visit whenever he wants.” Well, maybe I don’t want to get a grip. I loved our life as a messy, loud, imperfect family of four. The massive dishes on the counter after school. The giant shoes all over the house. The never ending laundry that came with a child who has always changed his clothes at least three times as day.
Where’s the book for parents at this stage?
I do however remember the book that was read to me and all the other parents on the first day of kindergarten as we sat on the circle carpet with our kids.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
A sweet little story about Chester the racoon who was going to school. He was nervous and didn’t know if he could handle being away from his mom so she came up with an idea to kiss his hand. Whenever he missed her, he could just put his hand on his face and remember that she loved him and that home was just a thought away. What a wonderful story to read to a room full of emotional parents. I walked away from that first day of school pretty much sobbing my heart out as I left my son behind. That was just the beginning. The beginning of all the years to come with both my children that really were all about letting go. I have thought about that book, talked about it, and kissed hands many first days of school since with my kids.
No matter where you are, home is just a thought away.
I’ve come to realize that home for all this time has been a launching pad, a training ground, a place of preparation. Kids will grow up and they will leave home and no matter how hard it is, that should be your greatest hope for them. You want them to go into the world with confidence and excitement, ready to walk into their future. It wouldn’t be healthy to hold on forever, no matter how tempting it is. That’s what I am learning in this season. There is sadness and joy in the letting go.
My son has a new home.
But home is always waiting for him.
The night before Noah left for school he came into my room and said he had a present for me. He handed me a brown envelope and I opened it up. Inside was a copy of The Kissing Hand. After all these years, I had never bought a copy. I’m glad I didn’t, the one he gave me with forever be one of my most treasured gifts.
You see, at the end of the book Chester realizes that maybe he wasn’t the only one struggling, but maybe his mom was going to miss him too and needed to know he would be thinking of her.
So he kissed her hand, said goodbye and turned and danced away.
That’s the book parents need.
How to love, and be loved and how to let it all go.
Let them dance away.
Cheer them on.
Home will always be waiting.
Always a thought away.