• Jennifer Meliton

Starting a new year.

The beginning of new years always come loaded with expectations, anxiety, holding on and letting go. This applies for calendar years, fiscal years, and definitely for school years. It's hard to say who has more emotion over the back-to-school transition, the parents or the child. I guess it depends on what year of school it is.

Nothing rocks a parent world quite like the arrival of kindergarten. Unless of course it's college. Let's talk about both. [*Emotional disclaimer-rough waters ahead.] Today I moved my daughter into her dorm at Kent State for her sophomore year. She has to move in early because she was chosen for a "Quad Desk" job. She will literally have to walk 85 steps (my OCD and I counted) from her door to the

front desk where she will help folks trouble shoot, hand out mail, and basically study waiting for someone to need something. She found out about the job last week, so we had about 4 days to get her ready. Up side? We hit the organizing hard and knocked it out. Down side? It happened. So. Fast. I walked in the door tonight to no Lex. I left her at school with hardly anyone there. The house is way too quiet.

On my drive home I jammed out to a song from Mama Mia II. Something light called "My Love, My Life." Angel (literally, she has passed away) character of Meryl Streep sings it to her daughter and newborn granddaughter in the movie. IT'S TERRIBLE. Terribly emotional! It made me realize that I'm pretty hard on kindergarten parents.

We see most of our soon-to-be-kindergarten parents at least four to five times before the kids start, and I like to lightheartedly remind them not to cry in front of the kiddos or get emo about sending the kids to school. It makes it hard for the kids to see their parents cry. I tend to minimize what happens when they go home after the bus stop and the house is empty.

Friends, whether it's kindergarten, middle school, college... the letting go struggle is real. Meryl sings, "...But I know I don't possess you, with all my heart God bless you..."

I know I don't possess you.

They are not "us". They are their own person. Their own story, their own dreams and travels. Every day children need us less and less. This is the way it is supposed to be, but it darned if that powerless (or at least less powerful) feeling doesn't just rip our hearts out. I clearly remember putting Alexa on her first ride in Kiddie Land at Kennywood Park. She sat in a little baby boat that took her in little circles. She was riding in a boat. Without me. All I could do was watch (and take pictures and call to her and reach for a tissue!) Now Kent State is that boat. Next year it will be Florence, Italy. Then New York City. Then.......

I'm doing it. I'm possessing her. Panicking over what I will do when those things happen. Like thinking about third grade,then fifth grade, then middle school, the high school. We spend so much time conjuring up our version of what they will look like and be like, that we sometimes miss what they are. Right now.

Images passing by. Like reflections of your mind, my love, my life...

Spend this moment. Be in it. Hold on to your kids without the panic that the delicious feeling you have will change. Drink in the moment and feel the utter joy you actually DO possess with your ridiculously amazing bond. Just to be clear, things do change. That love you have for your kids that you think could not be any stronger multiplies a gajillion times.

We have to remember that letting them GROW is letting them go. Whether it's the boat in kiddie land, the bus to kindergarten, the drop off at college or the walk down the aisle. Someone showed me the phrase, "Let them GrOw." Notice the upper case G and O. It's not easy, but when we help our kids go, we help them grow into strong creatures who set out to change the world, just like they changed us.

To all the parents sending their kiddos to a new adventure....with all my heart, God bless you.

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