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Middle school drop off: Courageous kids leave parents behind

As one mom drops off her son for his first day of middle school, she tries to figure out how her son became so courageous, perhaps overlooking the fact that parent's fears often stem from knowing what middle school is all about.

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I just dropped my son Chase off at middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Like I’ve been doing for three weeks now, I let him out of the car. I let him walk away from me and toward that huge building filled with PEOPLE AND DYNAMICS AND IDEAS and other horrible wonderful things that will break his heart and MAKE his heart and that I have no business trying to control. I let him walk toward a life that is HIS and not mine. Toward experiences that he is meant to have without me. Toward journeys he has to take alone.

Someone needs to create a word that describes what happens inside of a mama’s heart as she’s watching her child walk into a school building. We need a word for the feeling that overtakes her after saying goodbye to her infant who is somehow masquerading as a young MAN and who is walking away from her into his adolescent life. A word to describe the phenomena that is a mother sitting helplessly in her empty van while her heart silently screams her daily PLEASE be good to him Please see his strengths and overlook his weaknesses Please sit by him at lunch. Please smile back when he smiles. Please want to be his partner. Please be gentle. Pleasepleaseplease. PLEASE.

And how as she watches him walk away- toward the unknown of his day and away from the KNOWN of her (SO BRAVE! HOW DID HE GET SO BRAVE??? IS THIS LEVEL OF INSANE BRAVENESS EVEN WISE????) her head understands that the world is unfolding as it should. Her head KNOWS that all is well. That he is beginning his LIFE and that LIFE in all its bruty is what he came here for. And that he is ready. But her heart will not receive that memo. Her heart wants to run after him and pull him close and say: JUST JOKING HONEY! WE MADE A MISTAKE! THIS IS TOO MUCH! Come home and we will stay together forever and I will make sure that life NEVER HAPPENS TO YOU. Don’t worry. We will snuggle forever. Because I am not ready.

So she just sits in her empty van for a moment- holding up the car line for a split second too long. Her body is temporarily paralyzed, short circuited by the opposing messages from her head and her heart. The mixed messages SWARM her being and all at once she feels pride and fear and terror and excitement and hope and hopelessness and tenderness and ferocity and loss and gain. All these emotions swirl until her heart becomes so swollen that it threatens to escape out of her throat into tears and so she instructs herself to snap out of it. She shakes herself a bit. She breathes deeply and shrugs it all off and she drives away. And on her way home she tries to restore her heart to its original size by thinking of other things. Practical things. Because it’s all too much. Whatever that feeling is- it’s a lot like looking right at the sun. It’s simply too bright to stand for longer than a moment.

Is it love? Is the word love? Love wins but love hurts.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Glennon Doyle Melton blogs at momastery.com/blog. 

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