Motherhood = A Series of Send-offs

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple Pie A very dear friend  is getting ready to send her eldest son off to college next fall.  I unintentionally said to her  the other day, “college is nothing (NOTHING) – just wait until you send your child off to war.” I didn’t mean to be rude.  It’s just that I’m discovering first hand from my experience with many such partings in my kids’ lives, that  nothing I’ve experienced these past 30 years, holds a candle to THIS.

It starts with Kindergarten – sending our children off to school, knowing that most of what will happen will be positive, but there will be a few nicks and scrapes in the process.  Feelings will get hurt.  There will be an exposure to completely different ways of thinking and doing and being, from how OUR family thinks, does and is. An apochryphal story is  reported that when Sacajawea accompanied Louis and Clark on their great expedition, her son Jean Baptiste, fell into the campfire.  Lewis rushed to pull him out, and Sacajawea scolded Lewis for not allowing her son to learn the painful lesson, and appreciate the full danger of fire. I haven’t been able to authenticate this story in any history books – but it was told me in Mandan, North Dakota by a National Park Ranger:  it has to be true, right?  This 21st century mother is  not quite THAT  practical.  I did believe that natural consequences to behaviors – whether positive or negative, generally sort things out the way they’re meant to be, and help kids grow up learning life’s lessons at appropriate ages.

You progress to the summer camp send-offs. They’re gone for a week, maybe two.  When my kids were at this stage, there were no instant message options, or e-mail.  We sent snail mail, and most of it didn’t arrive before it was time for the kids to come back home.  Summer camp ups the stakes, because it’s sleeping and awakening away from home, over a number of days.  The personal routines and security of nightime are now subject to scrutiny by others outside the family structure. But as a mom you know they’ll be back into the nest in a relatively short time. Back to safety.  Back to me.

When you hand them the car keys for their first solo drive, the send off and return becomes a common part of the routine. Coming and going.  In and out.  Home and gone.  It’s great practice and sets the stage for the next big send-off:  College.

When the send off to college happens, whether local, in state or out, it’s a whole different separation,   because you, the mom, the parent don’t know your children’s new friends or new teachers.  You trust that most of what goes on will have positive and lasting impact.  You realize there will be plenty of experiences and opportunities for your child to learn their lesson the hard way. You have no idea whether the subject matter being proposed and discussed conforms or conflicts with your family’s beliefs and values.  But you trust that the child you’ve raised, has the wherewithall to discern good from evil, right from wrong, even though the world is no longer black and white. They come home for holiday breaks and semester breaks.  They come home during break-ups with girlfriends and boyfriends.  The point here is they come home, predominantly in one piece.  The stakes have been raised when feelings get hurt, but there’s typically little permanent damage, little lasting impact. But it takes longer for wounds to heal. The scars are more tender, the wounds deeper.

Many of our famiy gathered to send my son off.  It was a wonderful week-end, even more bittersweet because it was a continuum of enjoyable activities.  The three days ended and he was gone.

Gone to a place no one in my well-traveled family and friends has ever seen. A place where Americans today are not supposed to travel.

Gone to do work that can’t be fully discussed.

Gone to activities that involves dangerous travel, equipment and weapons.

Gone to the possibility of serious bodily harm.

Gone to the probability of witnessing horrors I’ve never had to deal with.

Gone to an uncertainty of his return.

But as a mom, we hope and pray they’ll be back in the nest in a relatively short time; back to safety, back to their lives, and by extension, to our own. This is our constant hope.  This thought is embedded into every breathe we take.

How well are you breathing?


4 Responses to “Motherhood = A Series of Send-offs”

  1. 1 Suchi Sairam
    April 4, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Apple Pie Mom, really heartfelt entry, I enjoyed reading. Everything is relative, isn’t it? I think it is important to acknowledge that sending your child to war (or into an operating room for surgery that may lead to an uncertain outcome, just like a war zone, or a number of other situations) is far more difficult than anything else YOU have experienced. Others may not be able to to understand, but they can empathize with what you are feeling.

    And compassion and empathy for your family’s situation is given with love, just as it is given for others who may be at a different “phase”.

    Love, prayers, and good vibes are with you from all corners of the world… truly…

    • 2 applepiemom
      April 4, 2009 at 7:57 am

      Yes – would fully agree surgery/illness is right up there on gut-wrenching anxiety. The difference then becomes the physical separation. And certainly – completely agree that different people handle different stressors differently, so this may just be worse for me, and may not necessarily be worse for others equally. Good point. Thank you.

      • 3 Suchi Sairam
        April 4, 2009 at 11:32 am

        Not worse (or harder, or easier), just different.

        And, there is noo doubt… he will be a different man when he comes home. And you will be a different mom.

  2. 4 Firefly
    April 5, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Apple Pie Mom, It seems to me that every time we, as mothers, send our children off to something that takes them away from our care and love, we experience a “little death.” We are forced to realize that we cannot protect them from the world or from their own inexperience and foolishness. Motherhood is all at once exhilarating and heartbreaking. But as you say, with each “sending off” you try to weigh the odds (good vs. bad) in your mind, because if you always only think about the danger, you can drive yourself crazy. In your present situation, the danger is so obvious that any mother would have a hard time breathing in that reality. My heart goes out to you as you face this fierce challenge and those you will face when your son returns. The only consolation I can offer is a hard one, sometimes too hard to accept when we are feeling so tender, but similar in message to the apocryphal story of Sacajawea, and one you already well know: that pain is a powerful (and, yes, even loving) teacher, and we must open our hearts to it to become better people. My love and support to you, dear mother, and your dear son.

    “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” — Julian of Norwich

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