As I entered the building today, I was met with sense of excitement so palpable I nearly lost my footing. Today would be a day of not one – but four – field trips. Second Graders were getting ready to visit the Center for Architecture as part of their engineering study of bridges, Third Graders were on their way to the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side as part of their study of Immigration, Fourth Graders were beyond excited to finally be on their way to Cape May for three days as the culminating experience to their year-long study of New Jersey, and Fifth Graders were off to Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, New York as a capstone experience related to their year-long study of the Human-Animal bond.
In the midst of all this excitement, I was struck with the tender reality that the hardest thing for us as parents to do is to let go of our children. It starts out with little things, like leaving them with a babysitter or at day care for the first time, then moves on to their first day of Nursery, their first field trip, first sleepover, and before you know it – summer camp, or overnight trips such as the ones our Fourth and Fifth Graders are on this week. While each of these experiences brings a tremendous sense of satisfaction and joy, the feelings are best described as bittersweet; our children are growing up and becoming more and more independent. And the biggest reality of all? Someday they won’t need us. We will have done our jobs, and we’ll be proud and happy, but like the set of nesting cups our toddlers played with and that we picked up countless times to restack, these joyful feelings will be nested inside what sometimes feels like a bigger bucket of loss, and of time gone by, never to be recouped or lived again.
As I stepped off the bus that was taking the children to Cape May, the teachers were carefully and earnestly reviewing the bus safety rules, and a group of parents looked on, each wrestling with their own set of personal feelings. Once off the bus I turned back to say goodbye to the bus driver, and I saw her do something we each do in our own way every time we take leave of our children – she crossed herself, and mouthed a quiet prayer. Seeing this, I knew that just like our teachers, the driver was aware that that her cargo is beyond precious, and would do everything she could to keep our children safe.
Aware of the time and the need to face the tasks that awaited me, I said goodbye to the parents who remained. Two of them were in tears. We shared a hug and a mutual understanding that parenting is hard for many reasons, but the very hardest of all is letting them go.
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