I have heard from helpful parents in the past so many times now that if I had a dollar for each time, etc., but it's true - they grow up too quickly. You can remember the precise instant when they are first placed in your arms after they are born, their exact smell, and suddenly, in the next instant, it seems, you are expected to wish them well on their first day of school. There is nothing quite like that feeling of bereftness as you walk away from them for the first time, leaving them in the care of a stranger for the better part of the day, the week and the rest of their lives. I am not sure that they were aware of the import at the time at all - they happily waved goodbye and went to sit on the mat with their new-found friends. It was me that was left to stand outside the class, looking through the window at my grown-up boys, feeling kindof silly and as though I had too many arms or hands and nothing to do with them. It's amazing how you can still feel the imprint of their tiny hands in yours even long after you have left them. What's sadder though, is the feeling of them pulling away, wanting to run, to play, not to be bound to you by that ever-present hand. How each time they run off, they tear a small piece of you away with them, as though they had been grafted there and are having to physically rip themselves away. No words have ever said it better than a poem I once read and have reproduced - it's by C. Day Lewis:
It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
For selfhood to develop, they have to walk away. And for you to love them fully, you have to let them go.