Back-to-School Goodbyes

I loved the early years of saying “goodbye” to my children as they left for school. Not because I was ditching them for the day (although there were times…) but because it was Mother Holding Child's Handalways a big hug and kiss fest with lots of “I love you’s” back and forth between us. They were sad to leave me but excited to go to school. It was a sweet, bonding moment, always a touch bittersweet for me. But things have evolved over the years. Let me paint a picture of what I have heard from my children as they grew:

Pre-school-2nd Grade: Can you walk me up to the door? I love you, mommy! Wait – another hug!

3rd-5th Grade: Can you just drop me off in front? You don’t need to get out. Bye, Mom. Love ya.

6th Grade: Can you park down the block and drop me off? No one else’s parents drop them off in front of the school. See ya.

7th-8th Grade (once we moved a block away from school): I’ll just walk and you don’t need to wave to me.

High school: They whoosh by me, out the door, yelling “bye mom” so fast, sometimes the door shuts before I manage to say the “b” in “bye!”

On one hand, I know this is all perfectly normal and natural, a part of separating themselves from their parents and asserting their independence. I get that, I really do. But I miss those days when we had a sweet moment together before going our separate ways for the day.

That’s why I have been so touched by the few, exceptional moments that have happened during these later years. For instance, there was the wonderful day when I was walking to school (but stopping a block away) with my then 5th grade son and he took my hand. I gave his hand an appreciative squeeze and said “you know, there’ll come a time when you won’t want to hold my hand.” His reply? “I can’t imagine that ever happening, mom.”

Then last year, my highschool-aged daughter and I unintentionally began a ritual where she would walk out the door to walk to school and, when she reached a certain part of the sidewalk, would turn back to smile and wave at me. If either of us didn’t remember to do the wave, it didn’t feel quite right. I try to remember those moments, and hope there will still be some sweet send-offs, as the years go by. I know for sure, they’ll be bittersweet, whether parting for the day or longer.

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