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I’ve done this before, I keep reminding myself! Three daughters and three continents, those heartfelt last parental goodbyes as one of our beloved walks around the corner at immigration and is lost to view. Airport tears, hugs and fears. And we’re about to do it all over again!

The countdown is on for our youngest child, and only son, to leave us for several months on a gap experience in Africa. He is young, but ready for the adventure of a lifetime. I find myself becoming more mindful of his presence every day, imprinting his smile and his voice, his mannerisms and his quirks.

I recall a conversation I had many years ago with a friend when I spoke of my difficulty as a mother coping with some of the transitions to parenting teenagers. He told me a story about a caterpillar that needed to build a cocoon around itself because it craved privacy and space to grow and change! After some time in the cocoon, cracks appeared and a beautiful butterfly emerged. The analogy being that our adolescents need at times to find a place and a space away from us, so that they too can experience emotional, spiritual and physical growth. And so it has been for all of our children.

But this does mean that we, as parents, need to become experts in the art of ‘letting go’, and trusting that we have done our job well enough for our children to show snippets of resilience and emotionally intelligent independence. Looking back at history, for centuries mothers have farewelled sons as they set off for wars across the globe – so often in ships that sailed out of harbour and were never seen again. I can’t imagine how they felt. Especially in those times when there was no internet, instant messaging or reassurance of safe arrival.

There is a ‘life cycle’ to this parenting gig: I see it as a ‘nurture, pull in, let go’ cycle and it keeps revolving, much as the moon revolves around the earth. From a Life Balance perspective, it means that as parents we need to be very aware of which phase we’re in, and intuitively understand the choices presenting themselves to us. Mindful parenting will help us to recognise when our children would benefit from some ‘letting go’, just as at times we are nudged to pull back in.

I looked to my top three VIA Character Strengths to see if they would help me out in finding the skill of ‘letting go’ with grace!

  • Love – my love as a mother knows no bounds. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my children, and so it is with great acceptance of this shared bond that I am happy to say ‘bon voyage’ to my son as he boards that plane to Africa
  • Gratitude – I feel thankful that we have an amazing extended family ready to welcome him on African shores and grateful that we are able to offer our children such incredible life opportunities
  • Perspective – looking at the situation through the eyes of other people always helps us to be more in tune with both our own and others’ feelings, thoughts, emotions and actions. Recognising and respecting the deep desire in my children to spread their wings is hugely helpful in the ‘letting go’ process.And so we‘ll all be there at the airport, waving our goodbyes through teary eyes yet celebrating the adventure about to begin. Bon Voyage!Cheers Alison

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