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July 31, 2008

Hard-won advice from an older mom

“It will be hard watching her get on that bus for the first time,” my neighbor, Jane, confided yesterday. Her firstborn starts kindergarten at the end of the summer. Already, Jane and her adorable daughter have started purchasing school supplies, including the coveted neon-pink backpack they spotted at Target. "I'm just not ready to let go," Jane tells me, fighting tears.

I can see that Jane is looking for some reassurance, some comforting maternal advice from a seasoned parent who's pioneered the same frontier and can light the way. She wants someone to tell her that her worries are normal (they are) and that she's not totally ridiculous for feeling a little sad about this transition (she's not).

Then it hit me -- right there on the sidewalk in front of Jane's house -- that I've become one of the "older moms" in our neighborhood. I've suddenly morphed into someone who's ... more experienced.

Fighting tears, too, I'm standing on the other side of the threshold. My son just graduated college two months ago. Last week, he emptied his closet and drawers, packed his car, and moved to a flat in Chicago where he's starting his career. To honor this milestone, his dad and I bought him a beautifully tailored suit -- the first really good suit he's ever owned. As I watched him being fitted for sleeve length at the clothing store, I couldn't help but remember another summer, a mere 15 years ago, when we shopped for his first grade-school uniform and a "Thomas the Tank Engine" lunch box.

And it seemed like only yesterday when I left my son, at 18, on the ivy covered campus of the University of Notre Dame. Everyone did their best to make me feel better about leaving him. There were poignant orientation speeches about the need to give our children “roots and wings.” There were special receptions, campus tours, and even a riveting sendoff led by the University marching band. But I still cried all the way back home to Detroit.

Right now, my mind reels with all the cliches we writers are warned not to use: Kids grow up too fast ... They're only young for a short time ... Where did all the time go?

As hard as it is to wrap my mind around the idea, I've officially joined the legions of Baby Boomers who call themselves “empty nesters.” I'm looking forward to the changes ahead -- but feeling wistful, too. I've enjoyed having young people around, and I know it's going to take a while to feel at home in a much quieter, cleaner house.

As I told Jane, letting go is a process, and she's just getting started. She's got several years and milestones ahead -- tournaments and competitions, homecoming dances, proms, award banquets, high school graduation, college. I tried to find just the right words that would ease her mind, but I could only validate what she was feeling. Whether your kid is climbing the steps of a school bus for the first time, or driving off in a car packed with his worldly belongings, well, it's never easy to let go.

Original Post 50-Something Moms Blog.

Cindy La Ferle blogs about home, family, and the writing life at Cindy's Home Office: www.laferle.com


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