Ready for departure

I am over the moon to have Sherri, from Old Tweener, here as this week’s guest poster for Small Moments Mondays.

I knew that I loved Sherri from the very first time I read her blog. The first post that I read was the poignant and powerful The Interview, which is etched in my mind to this day, it’s that amazingly perfect.

Sherri has an amazing way of taking universal topics and carefully weaving them into creative pieces. Just take a peek at Grocery Store Smackdown and Green Eggs and Maam and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Sherri is also warm and remarkably wise.  Read The Power of a Mom and After the Honeymoon… to get a better sense of who she is.

I’ve told you that Sherri is witty, creative, wise, and warm.  But it’s the intangibles that I wish I could put into words…her genuine nature, her warm eyes, her ready smile, her eagerness to be there for you when you need a friend.

Sherri has grown from an acquaintance into a true and trusted friend.  And my life is so much better for having her in it.

Thank you, Sherri.  I treasure your friendship beyond words.

Ready for Departure – by Sherri

The heavy black suitcases are weighed and checked in at the ticket counter, destined to be the first travelers on the long journey ahead. The contents of the bags have been categorized and sorted, packed and repacked many times over during the past few days.

If only I had tucked in tiny boxes of love and travel-sized bottles of wisdom and advice.

I would gladly have packed my heart if I thought it would pass security.

My son is excited and eager to get on the plane. He is dressed in his favorite black jeans and lucky t-shirt, a crisp passport in his pocket and emergency phone numbers hidden in his wallet.

Looking at him now, I see a young man ready to take on the world. Stare long enough and I can still see that young boy inside, wanting to battle with plastic dinosaurs or eat a Happy Meal at McDonald’s.

I wonder if the mere presence of a lucky t-shirt will be enough to protect him on this trip halfway around the world.

All those morning drop-offs at school, weeks at summer camp, and sleepovers with friends and relatives should have prepared me for this moment. How did we get here, when it seems I just dropped him off at preschool for a few hours this morning?

We walk as a group to the security gate in the International Terminal, the place where we will part ways for almost a month. Eight excited teenagers are lost in their chatter and texting, followed closely behind by parents pretending to be at ease with what is about to take place.

The International Terminal is off limits to anyone not traveling, apparently including mothers who aren’t yet ready to let go.

I watch my son and these other teenagers, so eager to depart for Germany and begin their month as exchange students. Some of them seem so worldly already, a few just fresh from high school graduation the previous week.

My son is barely 15 years old, yet you’d never know it to look at him. He’s tall and slender with a face that’s always been a bit old even when he was a toddler. His thick, black hair still forms the cowlick I loved to trace when he was a baby.

I wish I could trace it right now.

We mill around outside the security gate, waiting for the signal from the teacher who’s chaperoning the trip. A nervous excitement builds as parents add last minute bits of advice or instructions to call home when they arrive in Germany. Other parents brought cameras to capture the moment but I didn’t want to make a big scene.

Maybe a picture would have been nice.

I feel awkward, wanting to give him a hug to last for a month yet needing to give him the freedom and independence he has earned.

I am so proud of him for being eager to take this trip. When I was his age, I would never have been confident enough to travel so far away from my family. He has soaked up the German language over the past two years and can’t wait to communicate with the German people and soak up the culture in their own country.

But pride and worry are playing a nasty game of tug-of-war with my heart, and I’m not sure who will win.

When the chaperone calls to the students to get in line we hug him briefly, letting him retain his teenage-boy dignity, and he’s on his way. Watching him walk through the darkened glass partition to the security check-in I feel like the air is being sucked out of my lungs.

Like I took a piece of my heart and tossed it over Niagara Falls, unsure of where it will land.

What were we thinking, letting him go so far away alone? What if he gets lost? What if something happens to him so far from home? What if he doesn’t get along with his host family?

What if I never see him again?

I watch him walk through the metal detector and immediately be taken off to the side. His big, clunky belt buckle has set off the metal detector, something I hadn’t thought about telling him ahead of time. He looks agitated as he’s asked to empty his pockets again and take off his belt. My chest tightens as I watch his frustrated interaction with the security agent from behind the darkened glass.

And there’s nothing I can do. I cannot go to him, can’t help him figure it out.

He’s on his own.

Eventually he collects his things and puts his belt back on, then starts walking towards his group. He briefly turns to us, giving a slight nod to indicate everything he cannot say.

I’ll be fine. I’ll miss you. See you in a month.

Then he’s gone.

That moment I realized my time to guide and shelter my child is not infinite but measured. It’s measured in lessons learned, hugs given, tears shed. And once we’ve measured this time out to them, it’s up to them to use it as they see fit.

As I watched him walk away I realized that he’s going to be fine.

Whether I’m there or not.

Because for all these years?

I have been there.

_________________________

Please go check out Old Tweener and say hello.  You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

91 comments

  1. Rachel mommyneedsavacation.com

    OMG! Sherri!! I don't know how you did this. 15!!! You are a brave Mommy!

  2. Alexandra174

    gulp.

    dang lump in my throat.

    Beautiful, Sherri.

    You always do your most beautiful work, when it's your children.

  3. mamachaplin

    omg, this is beautiful & amazing & I just want to go scoop my sweet little girl up before she's grown up. love this post.

  4. Tonya

    Beautiful! My favorite line is:

    "But pride and worry are playing a nasty game of tug-of-war with my heart, and I’m not sure who will win."

    I love Sherri. She is the perfect combination of wit and wisdom and delivers like only she can.

    What a touching and tender Small Moment. xoxo

  5. Held my breath.

    Knew you would let him go…imagining do the same.

    And I had to hold my breath.

  6. Renee 2old2tap.blogspot.com

    Tears.

    For the ache of separation.
    For the little boy become a young man.
    For all the fears.

    For how proud of him you must be.

  7. How tough that must be! I already think about how I want my little ones to have those amazing, wordly experiences, but I wish I could go in their pockets with them or buy a teflon bubble to keep them safe and protected.

    I guess the most we can do is wrap them with love and confidence and decision-making skills and set their boats forth into the world. Like you said, "Because for all these years? I have been there."

    15 seems so young. What a brave boy. I am sure he will be forever influenced by so many aspects of the trip abroad.

  8. Sherri

    Nichole, thank you so much for your kind words and for inviting me over here today! I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be today….hugs to you, my friend!

  9. Sherri

    It was such a great experience for him….and awesome to see him when he came home!

  10. mommakiss02

    I am covered in goosebumps. covered. what a moment, and here's to your son for being so brave!

  11. Sherri

    Thank you Alexandra. You and I both know how many different ways we have to let these teenagers go.

  12. Sherri

    Thank you, my friend. We both love our "little" boys, don't we?

  13. Sherri

    The letting go can be hard.

    But it's so good for them. And me.

  14. Sherri

    So proud! That's what it came down to in the end. Hard to let go, but so very proud.

  15. Sherri

    It changed his life; really he's not the same as before the trip. He had to make decisions and be responsible for himself.

    And he did it.

  16. alyson commonsense-dancing.com

    Oh gosh. Must bookmark this one. Particuarly as my almost 15 year old is investigating summer programs that are not, if she can swing it, in this hemisphere.

    How does this happen? I tell my crew on every birthday "no more growing" and dammit, they defy me every year.

    He'll be great, you'll be great and you both should be proud that he's confident enough to do this! And, I wonder what he's secretly packed to help him through?

  17. Sherri

    It was such a good thing for him. Really good.

  18. Sherri

    Well, this was summer before last and he had an amazing time, Alyson! Life-changing for sure. But if your daughter gets a chance I would let her go in a heartbeat.

    But damn them, they DO keep growing, even when I tell them not to.

  19. amanda

    When the new year came, I chanted the "cheerful" quote (from Little House on the Prairie), "Golden years are passing by, these happy golden years," to which my 14 year old daughter replied, "The best years are still ahead!" So, I sigh and smile and…truly believe her. It's hard to let go, but these adventures…possibliities…growth are so wonderful to witness and share.

    Lovely post~

  20. @sharmstro twitter.com/sharmstro

    So beautifully told Sherri. It brings big tears to my eyes. Because I have been standing there. With all those thoughts and feelings bubbling up. And, the most emotional journey EVER was watching him walk down the isle when he said "I DO"….

  21. bywordofmouth

    In 5 days and exactly 11 hours and some change in seconds – my eldest, aka Wiki, will be 13.
    She is an amazing young lady, filled with wisdom, kindness and grace.
    She will take on the world, on her terms, she's that awesome.
    I want to tuck her under my chin. twirl her hair, breathe her in …
    Hide her from this world.

    Stories, not stories really, more like little pieces of your heart, help me know that I will make it.

  22. Natalie mycrazybusylife.com

    You’ve captured every thing I’m feeling right now since today is my first born child’s birthday. He’s now 14, but when I look at his face I still that sweet little boy who needed me to hold his hand to cross the street.
    Where has the time gone?

  23. Sherri

    You are so right! So awesome to watch them grow up, and so important for us to let them.

  24. Sherri

    Oh man! I can't even imagine, but you've got me teary just thinking about that day. So happy to see them growing up and moving on….yet so emotional, too. Thank you for your comment…

  25. Sherri

    Thirteen! Wow, such a milestone. Isn't it great? And yet….to keep them little is always a thought.

  26. Sherri

    Oh Natalie, Happy Birthday to your boy! Today's a big day for you, too…..where does that time go?

  27. Absolutely stunning. Your words, your wisdom. I am impressed by you as much as by him. I only hope I'll have this kind of strength when it's time to let my son's hand slip from me; when my daughter wants to pull too far away to be seen. At least with my eyes.
    Thank you.
    (and thanks to Nichole for having the insight to share this post.)
    JCG

  28. Sherri

    Thank you! It sounds like you know just what I'm talking about….and my daughter, who's younger by 4 years, is pulling away faster than I can imagine.

  29. Rachel mommyneedsavacation.com

    I bet! What a fabulous experience!!

  30. Lula Lola lulalola.com/

    Crying! Kindergarten was almost my undoing! I don't like the fact that my chance to mother those boys is "measured." Don't like it one bit. But, at the same time, I want them to grow and explore. I want them to roam and see things. I hope I'd never hold them back, even if I wanted to.
    I bet it was a wonderful experience for him.
    Travel is the best teacher!

  31. KLZ taminginsanity.com

    Sherri, I know we all have to do this, but I don't know how you do it. Daily. You're amazing. And this is beautiful.

  32. Sherri

    It was an awesome experience for him, LL! A big turning point for all of us, I think.
    It's wonderful to watch them grow up and have new experiences, but painful at the same time.
    I think I did a good job of keeping it to myself at the time, but writing about it brought it all back!

  33. katie sluiternation.com

    SHERRI! you made me cry on my first day back to work! Did you read my post last night about letting go of Eddie to go to work? This touched that raw part of my heart…

    You are SUCH a beautiful writer, my friend.

  34. Booyah's Momma chipandbobo.com

    Dang, Sherri. This just made me cry. The way you tell it, I can almost imagine myself standing there, watching one of my kids venture off… but I'm pretty sure I would have just lost it when they walked through that security gate.

    What an awesome experience for your son. And how lucky he is to have a mom like you!

  35. Julie

    Okay, way to make me cry! Gorgeous post!!

  36. Typing through tears. This is so beautiful. I had the most difficult time letting my 13 year old walk through security and fly alone to visit his 21 year old brother this fall. And he was only going to NYC. They did allow me to accompany him to the gate but he wanted to do it by himself. So I let him. And we were both fine.

    "I wish I could trace it right now"

    oh my.

  37. CDG

    I'm going to get to work on that time-stopping machine right now, while he still clings to me like a monkey and kisses me in the grocery store.

    Right now.

    Oh, my heart.

  38. Yuliya shesuggests.com/

    I knew I was I goner when I read the title, 'ready for departure', when the day comes I will be brave, but I'm glad I have your words to look upon (and lots of time)
    Lovely as always.

  39. Sherri

    Thanks KLZ! I guess we are always getting ready to let them go on some level…building up to it

  40. Sherri

    It was a totally awesome experience for him, and I can't tell you how glad I am that we let him go.

    But still….and I kept it in very well at the time, but it all came back when I wrote this!

  41. Sherri

    Thanks, Julie!

  42. Sherri

    Wow, you've been there too! It's such a big thing for them to "do it myself"and so important to their growth.

    But damn, it's hard sometimes!

  43. Sherri

    Thank you my friend!

    I was brave and kept it together, but on the inside I was toast.

  44. jessb27

    Oh my. My heart can't take this post. Beautifully written yet I can barely stand the thought of my children leaving me to go to preschool let alone half way around the world. I will have to start reading your blog for valuable lessons in letting go, unless I want to be the parent breaching airport security the first time one of my children wants to fly.

  45. Beautiful, as always, Sherri! It takes a strong woman to let her child grow up. What an experience for your son! He will treasure those memories abroad (of a broad? No, surely not) forever. But watching your baby go through security and off into the unknown is a frightening prospect.

  46. liz

    I traveled to Europe with a school group when I was in high school, too. To the kid, they don't even think of it twice. As the teen, you think your parents are making too big a deal, and why is this so HUGE to them?

    But then you are a parent and everything changes. :)

  47. Oh, yes Sherri, I did need tissues for this one but am using my sweater sleeve instead.

    Beautifully written. I don't want my son to grow up..but I do. The inner tug of war you so beautifully captured…wow. Thank you.

    How was his trip?

  48. Sob. It's hard to imagine my little guys going to the bathroom alone, much less to Germany.

    I love what you say about being there all along. We do what we do so that they can one day be who they want to be. And yet, despite what I know is the right thing, in my head I'm screaming, "Don't leave Mommy!" ;)

    Beautifully said, Sherri.

  49. Natalie mommyofamonster.com

    Tears, but sweet tears, not bitter ones. That last line started the pouring of them!

    Beautiful Sherri!

  50. Oh how I dread when my girls will leave. And if I raise them right, they will no doubt leave me and explore the world. Ugh…heart-wrenching nonetheless. Great post!

  51. Dammit, Natalie and Sherri – I hate when I cry at work! (Really, I should know better than to have read this, though.) Incredible post, Sherri. As always, you did an amazing job capturing this moment. I imagined myself, fast-forwarded 12 years watching our eldest embark on this journey. Though, I must say, I didn't handle it as well as you did. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  52. Ash shadesofblueandgreen.com/

    So difficult, but what an adventure for him!!

    Way easy for me to say though. Mine are 4 and 8. But I'll be standing in the International departures, God willing, all to soon.

    Hugs good Mama.

  53. OMGosh! What the hell?! Are you trying to make a mama cry all over her keyboard?? I'm struggling w/the letting go process of middle school…now I have this image in my head and I think you ripped part of my heart out. My boys are my everything…I felt your pain the entire time…when you struggled to breath, so did I!! How do we let go when it feels so right to hang on tightly?!

  54. I love the emotions swirling around the International departure gates. Though I've always been the one departing. I think I probably wouldn't handle being the departee.
    (Okay, is it departer or departee? 'Cause both seem to imply the person leaving! Silly English I don't understand.)

  55. Sherri

    Sometimes? Just letting them go to preschool just tears your heart out! But then you're so proud of them, too.

    What a mixed bag, isn't it?!

  56. Sherri

    It was an awesome trip for him; really life-changing. I am so glad we let him go experience that for himself.

    But part of me did want to follow him through the security gate. Just in case, you know.

  57. Sherri

    How cool for you, Liz! I think you're right; it all changes when you see it from the parent's seat.

    But I am so glad he was able to go! It was a wonderful experience for all of us.

  58. Sherri

    He absolutely had the time of his life, Melissa! It was the best thing that we let him go over there. He had to make decisions and handle himself on his own, and he did an awesome job.

    It sure is a tug-of-war isn't it? But so glad he did it.

  59. Sherri

    When they are little, they don't seem to do anything without us! And then slowly they start to become their own person.

    And that person doesn't always need to be with us, which is a good thing. But still hard at times.

  60. Sherri

    Thanks, Natalie!

  61. Sherri

    Thank you!

  62. Sherri

    Right! It's hard wanting them to be independent and raising them to be….but then having to let go!

  63. Sherri

    Thank you, Jennifer!

  64. Sherri

    It was an amazing adventure.

    And good for everyone in our family, even those that didn't go to Germany.

  65. Sherri

    Middle school is hard too…my daughter is that age right now!

    It was the trip of a lifetime, and I am so glad we let him go. I held myself together pretty well, but on the inside I was a mess.

  66. Sherri

    Well, I guess it wouldn't be the Dearly Departed, since that implies they are dead!

    I agree about the excitement around the airport….but sure is different when you are the one leaving.

  67. kris

    Oh, I needed this today.

    This letting go and trusting that it will all be OK.

    Because for all these years?

    I have been there.

    Thank you.

  68. For craps sake! I nearly died when the stupid bus didn’t drop Julia off in the afternoon. Germany??? I won’t be able to take it!

  69. Sherri

    Thanks, Kris!

    That means a lot coming from you.

  70. Cheryl @ Mommypants mommypants.com

    I can't even imagine it. I panic when someone else is driving my eldest home from school, those 20 minutes between the end of school and when I'm sure he should be home.

    The letting go is something I think I'm going to be terrible at.

  71. gigi kludgymom.com

    Fantastic post, Sherri. You always provide me a sneak peek into what's to come…both the good, and the bad, and the sad.

  72. Sherri

    I used to panic about the same stuff, Cheryl. It took many, many baby steps to get here…and I'm sure I have more to take before he leaves for college in the fall!

  73. Sherri

    Thanks, Gigi! Nice to see you over here….

  74. Mad Woman behind the Blog

    My only solace is that this is at least 13 years away. Thank you Nichole for warning me about the tissues and Sherri, oh Sherri, you've done it once again. Thank you for your beautiful words. I can only pray to have your wisdom.

  75. Jen classic-play.com

    Just beautiful.

    Most days, I can't think that far ahead yet because I too will cry. My kids are only 8 and 5 right now. And I went through a very difficult time with the 5 year old going to all-day Kindergarten this year. So most days, I'm taking it in baby steps.

    But sometimes, when I'm feeling strong, I let my mind wander to imagine what my kids will be like when they're teens, or early 20s and what I'll be like too. I figure it's a good inoculation for when we make it there. This post gave me hope about the future—that while it will be difficult to let go, we'll both find the courage.

    You must be so proud of your son. You should be proud of yourself too.

  76. I went to France for a month when I was 14. And I was a total train wreck about going. Then again, I was alone, not with a group of my teachers/friends. I loved every second of this story. I know it must've been hard for my parents to watch me go—and it was hard for me to go—but they never showed it, and that was probably for the best.

    Beautiful, breathtaking post, Sherri.

  77. Sherri

    Thanks, my friend!

  78. Sherri

    So proud of him, and so glad we let him go. It was an amazing experience.

  79. Sherri

    Wow, you can relate on a different level! I am so glad he had the chance to go, and I know he will always remember it.

    How wonderful that you had that opportunity!

  80. ali sydneydidit.blogspot.com

    Sent here by Erin…..and so glad I came! your writing is pure,sincere and poetic..bravo. its the language and mastery behind the story that captured me. Im a traveleler and fully expect to be in that same situ with my kids one day….and when that day comes your moment will replay in my mind I know it. I hooked!

  81. Sherri

    Nice to be a traveler; what a gift you will give your kids by raising them to love traveling around! Thanks for stopping by!

  82. Mrs.Mayhem motheringmayhem.com

    This post is so beautifully written. Your love for your son comes through clear and strong.

    The amazing thing about every one of your posts is that somehow you manage to describe your experiences as a mother while also depicting the huge, amazing love between every mother and her child.

    Sherri, you are awesome.

  83. Cori corisbigmouth.com

    …did my last post not go thru?! Anyway…

    I remember the look on my moms eyes as I excitedly left on a journey to DisneyWorld with my class as a Freshman!

    Hugs to you for letting him go!! He’ll be back bugging you before you know it!

  84. Sherri

    Thanks Mrs. Mayhem! I know your family loves to travel, and I would bet that one of your bunch at least does something like this sometime.

    We sure do love those little buggars, don't we?! Thank you for stopping by.

  85. Sherri

    Thanks, Cori! Wow, you've seen this experience from the other side looking back at mom!

    He had a great time and we were so happy to have been able to send him. It really took a young boy and turned him into a young man.

  86. Kelley kelleysbreakroom.com

    I'm tearing up over here!! I cannot imagine it. Cannot, cannot, cannot, but I know I need to…eventually. Mine are 2 and 6 and I love them with all of my heart and soul. Will they want to go to Germany some day without me? Say it ain't so!!! At least I've got a few years to get my act together…

  87. Sherri

    The good thing is, it happens slowly….but they're still our babies!

  88. Clare foursillykids.blogspot.com

    Oh Sherri, how awesome and sad and brave all at the same time! My oldest is 10, and I cannot imagine. I know I will have to, but I still have a hard time sending him on a sleepover. Or around the block. I am weak, woman, and you are strong. Thanks for sharing your story. I hope your boy reads it one day and realizes what an awesome mom he has.

  89. Sherri

    Thanks, Clare! You know, it took many baby steps to get there….and even sending him around the block doesn't always seem easy or safe!

    But he had an awesome experience. Just awesome. And I'm so glad we sent him.

  90. Sherri

    Oh Joey, you'll get there! But at least we take these things one at a time, right?!

  91. Paula

    We just took our first trip away from our boys – 4 nights and 5 days. I can't imagine one month, but somehow they survive without us don't they. I guess that is the result of good parenting – you did good Sherri!!

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