I knew I had to turn around and walk away.  The time had come.  I could have prolonged the moment.  I could have hung around to be helpful or supportive or something, but I knew it would just be delaying the inevitable.  I knew the time had come to say good-bye, to entrust my child to the goodwill of others, to the kindly fates, to good luck, or whatever there was to keep her safe and well.  It was time to ease my grip, the way you ease up on the kite string so that the wind can take the kite higher.

We had prepared one another for this.  As a family we had always relied on hugs and information to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown.  So we had talked.  We prepared her by talking excitedly about school, about meeting new people, about learning new things, and all the rest.  We talked at length about how we would get there and what we would do once we got there.  She prepared us by being eager.

But she was also nervous.  Despite all the information and a visit for orientation, she still had apprehensions; she still had questions, not so much for information as for reassurance.  We lavished both.

The morning of the departure, I wanted to know what was going on inside her.

“Are you excited?”

“Yes.”  Her smile said it all.

“Are you nervous?”

“Yeah.”  A small furrow formed over her brows.

“It’s OK to be nervous,” I assured her.  “I’ll bet you won’t be the only one who’s nervous.  I’ll bet lots of other kids will be nervous, too.”

She seemed to relax a bit.

The trip there was uneventful.  The talk was pleasant, though little of it was about the important transition that was taking place.  That was a given.  We had talked, we had prepared, now it was just time to do it.

Once we were there, the excitement and the fear were obvious.  She cautiously met others, surveyed her new environment, and in far too short a time, it was time for me to leave and for her to stay.

I had decided not to be one of those parents who hangs around long after the moment was right to leave, so I gave her a hug, reminded her I loved her and I turned and walked out the door.  Once out the door, I gave myself one last look.  There she was, standing nervously, looking around, unconsciously twisting her shirttail. Her first day of preschool then began, and life for our family changed forever.

The same kinds of things happened 13 years later when I helped her move into her college room. The process of preparing emotionally was similar, the logistics far more complicated, of course.  Both times of leaving her were events that were crucial to her growing up and to my growing up.  Both times, I eased my grip just a bit, the string slid effortlessly through my fingers, the kite soared upwards.