Recently I’ve noticed a very cute TV ad sponsored by an insurance company featuring a father handing his daughter the keys to a car. He sees a little girl of maybe five or six behind the wheel as he gives her instructions to be careful, stay off the freeways, to keep her phone in her purse while she’s driving. As she drives away, we the viewers see a teenage girl in the drivers’ seat, but I suspect that father still sees the little one.
I remember quite clearly the first time each of our three kids drove off alone in a car. It’s a terrifying feeling standing in the driveway watching that car disappear down the road, imagining all the things that could go wrong (a storyteller’s imagination can be as much of a curse as a blessing, at times!). Yet as much as I would have loved to keep them small and dependent and close by, there came a time when each of them had to leave the nest, in increasingly larger steps.
I thought of that ad early yesterday morning when our daughter and her husband packed up their car to head back to New England after a two week visit here in Arkansas. They spent a week with his family, a little more than an hour north of here, and a week with our family. We had a lovely time visiting with them, having dinner with my husband’s mother and then my father, playing games and shopping and talking. But once again, there came a time when they had to leave. Our daughter had to be back at work in her medical residency Monday and our son-in-law is starting a new semester of graduate school. I stood in the driveway and watched their car disappear, seeing a little girl and a young boy in the front seats, imagining all the hazards that awaited them on that two-day drive …
Now our house is quiet again with our oldest daughter working in the Pacific Northwest, the second one in New England and our son attending his final year of college prior to beginning his own medical training. The doors to their bedrooms are closed and their closets hold only a few left-behind belongings. I’m so very proud of them for pursuing their own lives and careers — after all, it was our goal throughout their childhoods to get them to this point, independent and self-sufficient. And yet even now, I can look around our house and see them sprawled on the floor with their toys or curled in my lap watching TV or gathered around our table for a meal or a game. Just as the man in the commercial very clearly envisions his gap-toothed little girl when he looks at his impatient teenager, I see our kids when I picture the young adults we’ve ushered out into the world.
For all the parents who just sent a child off to college for this new semester — or the first day of kindergarten or high school or a new job or the military — here’s to you for finding the strength to let go. We can share our pride in them, even as we share the bittersweet bonding of parents whose job is almost complete.
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Don’t forget my new book PROGNOSIS: ROMANCE is available in stores this week! Click the Books Available Now tab above for more information.