Such Sweet Sorrow

Parting is.

We took our eldest to the airport, seeing her off on a 3,500 mile journey as she prepares to begin a twelve month Master’s degree program in London.  We expect her to make a brief trip home at Christmas.  But we have learned that the person who leaves is never quite the same as the person who comes back.

We loved her before she was born.  We were thrilled to have our first baby – a perfect little girl.  hbw toddlerShe grew into a precocious toddler who learned to speak at an early age and who charmed family and friends with her sweet smile and friendly nature.  Always at ease around people, she had to wear a harness and leash in malls so she wouldn’t walk off with someone else.  On her first day of preschool at age three she pronounced it fun, but quickly added she couldn’t understand why “some kids cried.”  Imagine our surprise at kindergarten open house when she introduced us to almost everyone in the building:  other pupils, several teachers, and some of the office staff.  In middle school she joined the band and then told us about it afterwards.  When she started college 250 miles from home I wept as we drove away.  She shed a few tears, but was quickly about the business of building new friendships and making her own life in a new city.

Now, our family home is simply a repository for her; a wayside stop.  We are the temporary keepers of her possessions while she goes off to explore her new and much larger world.

To say we are incredibly proud of this young woman is an understatement.  She is smart, caring, and outgoing.  She has a history of working hard at the things she loves best.  Often, she has achieved a level of excellence far beyond our expectations.   She is brave and strong.

Helping our girls grow into poised, productive, young women has been a labor of enormous love.  hbw wvuWe tried so hard to have the right conversations about the right topics at the right times.  We tried to balance structure and silliness to provide both stability and outlets for creativity.  They earned the freedom to make their own choices and chase their own dreams.  And so they chase…

From birth your child is never really “yours.”  You set many examples (for better or worse) and you learn from each other – parents and child.  But each one is born with an individual personality and immediately begins the process of learning to leave.  First they learn to walk and talk and then they make airline reservations.  Maybe not quite that quickly, but it seems like it.

We hugged and cried at the airport.

Sorrow at this parting?  Certainly.  Because we will miss her.

Sweet?  Very.  Because growing up and out is her birthright.  This is part of the evolving parent-child relationship and the fulfillment of what we, and she, have worked for over the past 22 years.  She is no longer our precocious toddler.  This is her time to fly.


10 thoughts on “Such Sweet Sorrow

  1. Beautifully expressed, Sheila. As someone who loves your girls, and is going through many of the same experiences with my own, this brought tears. You and Dennis can be very proud of the job you’ve done as parents.

  2. Beautifully written. I am a friend of Sandy Ahlgren on Facebook and a former resident of Jamestown. Listened always to WJTN and am retired from WCA where I knew Sheila as a member of the Board. It is difficult to say goodbye to our children, but, you can be very proud. Alice Murray, Lakeland, FL.

  3. As an “older mom” of a now almost 9 year old, I am reminded daily of how this parting process is years in the making. A few steps forward of growing independence and then a need for night time hugs as he steps back for reassurance. It is obvious from your description that your daughters have become young adults with the tools and confidence to navigate this ever changing world in ways that you probably never imagined! What a gift you have given them! One that makes you happy and sad at the same time.

  4. I’m glad to learn that Hannah’s hopes and plans have turned into reality. It’s great having this new way to keep in touch with your happenings and thoughts, Sheila. Miss you. Hugs!

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