Second Opinion: Letting go again

Dr. April Sanders looks back while looking to her daughter's future

Last month I moved my daughter to London, U.K. For her and I, child and parent, the event marks one more step in letting go. For me alone, the event is a sober reminder that while the majority of my life belongs to the past; the bulk of hers belongs to the future.

In London, when we stood for our goodbyes, my daughter was an iridescent helium-filled balloon in my grasp, but then, I opened my hand and released the string. I watched and admired the balloon, soaring on invisible updrafts ever further away, but the wonder was laced with the sorrow of letting go of something so beautiful and precious.

When I look back on life, it is neither accomplishments nor career that has most given me purpose, fulfillment or joy; it is parenting with my husband. We have raised two children and given them to the world as independent adults. They are more than I ever expected, a gift that I am thankful for everyday. As much as I want to keep them in my orbit, I realize that they belong to the future and not to me. When I left London with its diversity, opportunities, youth and culture I knew it would energize my daughter’s soul in a way that small-town Canada could not. She was born to live in such a city and I wondered if she would ever return.

Parenting is an ancient dance, one where we start out holding children close, but as time goes by we swing them further and further away to dance on their own. We hope the future provides the opportunity for more close dancing, but must live with the fact that many children will find their own rhythm, one we cannot follow, knowing neither the music nor the steps. We call these children independent and should be proud, but deep down in a secret place, we wish we could have them dance to our tune. Relinquishing control is never easy but it is our job.

My daughter dances to a music I cannot hear, a dance of her own. My final act is to bear witness and I undertake my responsibility with great pride. I will be there to catch her if she falls, as I know that this is an integral part of learning to dance alone. I watch her soar into the future and I feel joy recognizing that through her dance, part of me resides in the future as well.