This post is part of a series called “Motherhood Mantras.” To read more about the series, and the full list of writers, click here.
It was the last Monday in the month of August. The sky was aqua blue with accents of soft white fluffy clouds, birds were chirping happily – if not loudly – all the leaves on the trees were in full bloom, dancing in the slight morning breeze, getting ready to change its color for the coming season, flowers were fading away – already there were signs of cooler days and nights coming ahead all around. It was a beautiful late summer morning….and it seemed fitting that on this late summer day, as the summer was letting go of its grip on heat, I was experiencing yet another kind of “letting go.”
This was the first day of kindergarten for my firstborn Justin…the day we had been waiting and preparing for all summer long. The day he would start riding the “yellow school bus,” the day he would become a “big boy.” Rick and I had been waiting for this day (public kindergarten!) even longer – - no more expensive private day care! I thought I was ready for this moment of “letting go,” since we had been mentally preparing for this day for a long time. Well, I was, but I was not. That day, I learned that “letting go” is a bittersweet process that constantly evolves.
The bus stop was only a half block away from our home, so we could see children of various colors, shapes, and sizes running around the bus stop corner from our window. They were dressed in their best “back-to-school clothes” – equipped with new backpacks that seemed to boast its newness in the bright morning sun. The bus arrived late, giving the parents a chance to chat and the children to play around. I met several parents who were also experiencing this “letting go” phenomenon with their kindergarteners. It helped to talk about our small anxieties, share concerns about what could go wrong and what worried us the most….at last the bus came and the physical separation took place.
Justin made funny faces as I tried to capture this day on my digital camera – perfect scrapbook material. Okay, hugs and kisses! Have a good day! Remember, you have to get on this bus at the end of school day – this is the “Green” bus that comes to King Farm! Remember to listen to Ms. Gilbert, that’s your teacher’s name. I don’t know what else we spewed off in the last few moments at the bus stop, but Justin kept on nodding and responding, “Okay, okay.” Apparently, he had no anxieties about letting go. As a matter of fact, he was so confident and anxiety-free that he had the mindset to help someone else who was having trouble letting go. He helped a girl who moved from New York less than a week ago and was feeling overwhelmed with all the changes in her life. When she was hesitant to let of her mom’s hands to get on the bus, Justin gently held her hand and guided her into the bus, as she cautiously looked back at her parents with sad eyes. She was anxious and worried to let go of her parents’ hands, but there was this little boys’ hands that was guiding her. I was so proud of him, for his gentle and compassionate spirit that underlined his energetic and carefree spirit.
I did not realize how sad I felt until he disappeared into the bus and the bus stop was cleared of all parents. I felt as empty as the bus stop, so I decided to walk off my feelings. I walked our younger son Nathan to his day care, about a mile and a half away from our home. I wanted to take in the beauty of the morning, but more than anything else, I wanted to dwell in that moment that feeling of profound emptiness I was feeling. I don’t know, somehow, I wanted to linger a little bit in the feeling of emptiness while enjoying the company of my younger son, who was not yet old enough to go to the “big school” for “big boys” on the “big yellow school bus” – the one whom I did not have to let go yet.
After Nathan was dropped off in the “Terrapins” room, I looked into Justin’s old “Groundhog” room where he spent three days a week, for the past year or so. It was then that the tears started swelling up in my eyes. His name was not on the cubby anymore – he was not in the “Groundhog” class anymore – he was not a baby anymore. On my way home from the day care, I stopped by the local coffee shop to treat myself to a gourmet coffee and then called a friend to pour out my heart on this occasion of letting my son go. Then, I felt better and I chuckled at myself for my heart’s foolishness. It’s not like he was my property that I had a tight grip on from the beginning. My mindset had been that even though Justin is my son, ultimately Justin was not my property, but God’s property. I have been blessed, privileged, and entrusted to take care of him as my son, to love, to educate, to nurture, to raise up in a healthy and faithful manner to help him grow up to be a loving and responsible human being whom God can use to share God’s good news of love. Because my mindset has been such from the moment I found out he was growing inside of me, I felt surprised at myself that I was feeling such profound sadness from this occasion of “letting go.”
It’s humorous in some sense, because he was only in kindergarten. It’s not like he had gone off to college out of state or something.
I thought about how many times my parents must have felt this sense of emptiness and sadness from watching me let go of their hands through various stages of my maturation. They acted with faith in each occasion that marked letting go of me. They let go and let God take care of me. I was flooded with feelings of gratitude. Yes, this was the first of many occasions when I had to practice faith and let go of my son’s hands and let God. Let God hold his hands the rest of the way. Yes, this marked the beginning of many “letting go’s” that will happen in the future. And I am thankful, as I remember how God held my hands in my life’s journey; I am comforted in the knowledge that God will hold my baby’s hands through his life’s journey. I realized that when I let go of my control and let God control my life, including my son’s life – I will be blessed beyond my imagination.
I am blessed beyond my imagination.
Yena K. Hwang is a minister member of National Capital Presbytery and served as Moderator in 2011. She is also a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has two boys who are now 11 and 9 years old. This piece was written on the occasion when her first son went off to kindergarten.