Learning to let them go


A Mom in the Trenches Marla Thompson

As I make reference to Harry Chapin, it seems just like yesterday that my 18-year-old son “came to the world in the usual way.”

Without much fanfare, he evolved through his early years in much the same way. His only exception was his inability to talk. Much like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, Madison chose to communicate through a unique and intricate style of grunts and fractured sign language.

As it turned out, it really wasn’t his fault. He was tongue-tied, but it took a year’s worth of speech therapy (where his older sister proclaimed time and time again, “I already told you, he can’t talk!”) and two speech therapists to confirm that.

After a simple procedure that lasted less than eight minutes, Madison awoke in recovery murmuring, “My blankie…” before promptly throwing up on it for emphasis.

I’ll never forget watching three-year-old Madison as the nurse took him from me and carried him to the operating room. He cried, as did I, as we separated before he went into the great unknown.

More than a decade later, it appears we’ve reached another unknown. This past weekend, Madison graduated from high school. Somehow this great milestone snuck up on me.

Maybe it’s because he’s the third child to graduate.

Maybe it’s because it seems we were just here with his older sister.

Or maybe it’s because he did it so classically Madison-like: Under the radar. Without any drama. Without any doubt.

It’s ironic to me that this fall when Madison leaves for college, my youngest will just be starting kindergarten. Maybe it’s for this reason, despite how emotional I felt when his two older sisters walked the stage at Finney Chapel, I was more anxious to visit a drive-through for dinner than I was awaiting his name in the line-up of pending diplomas. After all, we’re only halfway through with the Oberlin school system.

Three down and three to go.

This was my mindset as we sat through all five valedictorian speeches until Madison’s name was called.

If when in the moment you die, your life flashes before your eyes, so is the case when your child graduates from high school.

I did not see an optimistic 18-year-old man accept his diploma. Instead, I saw my three-year-old son who needed to be pried from my arms. This time, however, he wasn’t crying. Instead, he was receptive to the great unknown, separate from me.

This is the moment we prepare our children for, I know. But for that moment, I wanted him off that stage and back on my hip. As parents, sometimes the days crawl, but the years do fly!

To Madison, and the rest of the every graduating member of the Class of 2015, as you prepare to spread your wings, your parents also practice the art of letting go.

Just a little at a time.

Marla Thompson is a Wellington High School graduate. The mother of six children, she writes about being a modern mom.

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