Last week it was the first day of school for the boys. When Mark died our counselor told me not to make any big changes in their lives for at least two years. So I’d kept them at their private school for two more years. But now it was time for them to go to the public school right by our house.

We were all nervous. I showed it by being overly planning and trying to make sure we didn’t forget anything. Brannon showed it by getting quiet and very serious and mature. Connor showed it by getting silly and trying to make us laugh.

The morning came and we walked to the school together hand in hand. (I tried my best to feel those hands, knowing one day soon they won’t do that anymore in the presence of their peers.)

I dropped Brannon off at his classroom and he nervously put his lunchbox on the shelf and his backpack in the closet and made his way to his desk. My heart pulled so hard in my chest.

As I walked away I was luckily still busy because I had to get Connor to his room. He walked in and when I said “Goodbye” he said, “I forgot what I’m supposed to do.” And I thought, “Yes, I’m a little scared and nervous too.” But he walked over to his teacher, touched her on the arm and said, “What do I do?” And I knew he would be just fine.

But then I had to walk home.

There were so many parents on the first day and all I could think of was, “Mark should have been here for this. He would have loved it.” And yes, I started to cry as I walked. This was absolutely one of those moments that will be etched in my memory as a milestone in the boys lives. And I hated that Mark wasn’t there.

I walked slowly and tried to avoid the eyes of other parents. Then I saw another woman crying. And realized, it’s normal. This is an emotional time, an emotional change. It is a huge moment. One that SHOULD be remembered and cherished. And tears don’t take that away.

And then I knew, Mark was there. And I felt him, and even though we didn’t speak, it didn’t matter. The emotions were not about him not being there but about the next step of letting go of our kids. And that will always be a shift for a parent.

So, at the beginning of this new school year I’m sending out a whole bunch of love to all parents going through this growth and letting go.

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