On Wednesday, I hugged my daughter goodbye, and then waved until she was out of sight.
Not an uncommon event, true, except that this time she was the one in the car driving away, and I was the one left home, crying on her daddy’s shoulder.
The summer is a great time for family firsts. With the break from school to loosen up the usual routines, you can throw in new things and have some time to recover from them. First family camping trip? You can let the kids sleep in the morning after while you unpack the car. First meal out at a fancy restaurant? During the summer, outdoor seating allows for louder parties than usual without glares from the other patrons, and a quick getaway is possible if necessary. First outdoor movie? Clear that next day, cause cranky is a common side effect of getting home after midnight.
A first that many of my friends and I are going through this summer is the first time away from their kids. There is the mom of a youngling on her first momcation as she goes to her high school reunion. There’s the dad seeing his kid off to his first overnight camp. And there are those like me, sending the child off to the grandparents for her first sans parents vacation (and her first solo plane trip on her way back).
I intend not to let the whole time be taken up with sobbing.
The first time we went out to dinner without our child, my husband and I talked about her the entire time. The first night we got a sitter and spent a night without our girl, I was at my own front door at 6am the next morning, chanting, “Open, open, open,” like that old commercial.
The first time I left for more than a night, when a friend of mine was killed and I flew to the funeral with very little warning, she had her first (and only) nighttime accident since potty training.
We don’t do separation that well.
And that’s partly because we don’t do it very often. Regular date nights are a great concept, but when going to a movie is a three-digit price tag affair - between tickets, popcorn and drinks, and the sitter - you just don’t do it that frequently. I love a good meal, but the sitter cost alone makes grabbing anything slower than a fast-food combo meal an event worth doing only on truly special occasions.
Still, let me be one of the voices encouraging you to go for it. Growing up is also, sadly, about growing apart. You can be the most attachment-based parent in the world, but if you’re carrying your kid to college in a Baby Bjorn, you’ve both got a problem.
So push yourselves and your kids. Swap sleepovers with another friend so that the adults can get a full night out without bankrupting themselves. Pull all the strings that you need to tug to get a weekend away before they leave for the dorms. Send them on that sleepover camp, even if they do get nervous the night before.
My girl and I still have connections to help get through this week. There was a cell phone call last night before bed that let me hear her voice. The excitement in it soothed me enough that I was able to stay and have fun at an adult birthday party, tear-free. Skype will provide a chance to see her smiling face when they finish the long drive over the river and through the woods today. And perhaps, if grandparent wills prove stronger than seven-year-old resistance, I’ll get an actual paper letter in her little girl handwriting before this is over.
And if all else fails, I have the kiss in my right hand that she gave me before she left, folding my fingers over it carefully, and solemnly telling me to keep it close. My heart soared, remembering doing the same for her on her first day of school.
My little love. Travel safely.
And I guess I’ll be using my left hand to hold that margarita tonight.