This past month has been one where things on my mind truly hit my heart with a new depth of understanding. I feel the pull on my heartstrings, a tug-of-war between letting go and holding on, which is familiar to all parents from the day their child is born. But this month, I finally understood what my parents and thousands of other parents have felt in their heart when their child or children make a choice to move abroad. My daughter and her family are moving to Europe.
When I consider that nearly twenty years of our lives as parents are devoted to raising, nurturing, and caring for our child/children, it’s easy to see why letting go of that role is a frightening task. Childrearing consumes our time, energy, concern and love for at least two decades. We invest our hearts, minds and spirits into our children’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual well being, and it can be very difficult when that part of our lives comes to an end. But does it really come to an end? With every separation, with every distance, our heartstrings are pulled again and again. We are constantly confronted with the reality of our children growing up. Whether it’s weaning them off breastfeeding, the first day in day care or kindergarten, sending them to camp, going away to college, or walking the bride down the aisle to give her away, or knowing that our son has found a soul mate, we experience the tug-of-war with our heartstrings. And with each step, we are faced with letting go of a parental attachment held from birth. We do so with a pull at our heartstrings and a prayer on our lips.
Years ago when the world was not as small and connected as it is today, my parents moved to the Arabian Gulf to make a life of new discovered opportunities. It was daunting for them and for the families they left behind. The families trusted their choices and sent them off with a constant prayer on their lips. When I was 16 years young I first chose to leave home to study abroad. When I was 20 years young I made the long trek to the US to continue an education, find employment, choose a spouse, marry, have two beautiful children, move to Europe and then take a huge leap of faith to relocate to the US, and from there, continue to add to my story. My parents trusted and honored my choices with constant prayers on their lips.
Now it is my turn. As a parent I must honor the choices my children make. I may not always like the choices, but it is their own life story they must write, just like I did mine with the trust and prayers of my parents. And yes, it is hard. It is a daunting task not knowing what lies ahead. But I do know I have taught my children enough and well. I do know I have given them the tools to make choices that contribute to the functioning of home and family. And I do know an immense pride for their accomplishments and wisdom that percolates deep beneath the surface of my heart. Hard as it is to face the unknown, I also know that my daughter, like me, loves the adventure that comes with the freedom to choose. It is at the core of our experiences in this life. Ever since she and her brother were children, I have allowed them choices that acknowledged mistakes, embraced pain, and required a deep level of acceptance and trust. It also brought strength, passion, energy, a closeness and purpose to both our experiences.
I’ve loved. I’ve taught. I’ve shown up to cheer. I’ve encouraged their independence. I’ve embraced them in their worst moments and in their best moments. I’ve set aside my own fears and let them know that mistakes are part of the journey and there is no shame in living and learning. I’ve asked. I’ve listened. I’ve given support and guidance. I’ve seen triumph in decisions made. I’ve gained from their wisdom. And today, I know their strength, I see their dreams, I feel their heart, and I trust in their path.
Today, I send my daughter and her family of four over oceans and across continents with a tug at my heartstrings and constant prayers on my lips.