Life's GoodbyesJun 15, 2022
Our lives are made up of a thousand goodbyes. Good goodbyes, empowering goodbyes and hard goodbyes, sad goodbyes. Goodbyes are (typically) difficult for both sides of the Goodbye. Saying goodbye in the morning of the first day of kindergarten, saying goodnight when it’s time to go to sleep, saying goodbye to Dad when his weekly visitation is over, saying goodbye as one moves across the country because of a job opportunity, losing a tooth, saying goodbye as one gets married and moves onto the next stage of life, visiting an elderly parent who you do not live close to, walking away from a relationship that is causing you pain, parting ways at the sleepaway bus stop, airport goodbyes (although “airport hellos” rock), walking out of the hospital after beating a life threatening illness, and of course, there’s the hardest of all, the ultimate goodbye when a loved one moves on to the Next World.
How do we handle these goodbyes?
I get many phone calls from parents worried about sending their children to sleepaway camp. How will they fare? Will they be ok?
The ironic part, is that often, our children skip off to find their friends at the bus stop, and leave us, parents who have flooded tear ducts and can barely find our way back to the car. Just a few minutes ago, our little toddlers were at the door crying for us when we left the house, and in such a short time later, our goodbyes seem just so different.
The important part is to remember that Goodbyes, and the idea that we may feel more separate now, is usually hard for both parents and children… and at every age. Goodbyes do not get easier over time.
Understanding that our relationship is not defined by how close we are in proximity, is the message that we need to remember both as parents and as children.
As our children grow up, if we do our parenting job properly, we train them how to handle separations both big and small. Our goal is for our children, and ourselves, to realize that even when we are apart, and even if it hurts to say goodbye, there is a little piece of each of us that remains inside the other person.
We don’t need to try to take away the sadness of goodbyes. It’s ok to cry.
The idea we should pass on to our children is “this parting is sad, for us parents too. You’re allowed to cry. We all deal with goodbyes differently, and that’s ok too. No matter where you are, you will have a part of us within you. And as parents, no matter where you are, there’s a piece of you inside us too.”
I once heard the following words from Mrs. Debbie Selengut, and I get emotional every time I think about them. When her children are away in Israel, or wherever they are, she tells them to look at the moon. And she will too. And they should know wherever they are, they are looking at the same moon and they are connected through that.
Campers enjoy “signing pillows” at the end of camp to ease the goodbyes (the ones that parents try to throw out because really, where are we supposed to store all of those?), seminary girls hang up pictures of family and friends, momentous occasions give out momentous gifts as a reminder of the special event because the physical takeaways leave us with a piece of the event.
This is the reason we shlep home Doritos from Israel when we can buy them in the local grocery. (Please tell me I’m not the only one). Because eating Doritos and nosh that originated from Israel, helps us feel connected to Israel. (As I’m writing this, I’m laughing about this custom that has somewhat developed in my family, and truly wondering if it’s just us who does this.)
Giving your children a piece of you to take with them wherever they go, is the key. Whether it’s a family motto or a family value, a family photo, a blanket with your perfume on it, a memory to hold on to or just a joke that you can both think about and laugh at when you miss each other, is a piece of home that may make the goodbye just a tiny bit easier. Maybe.
And, if the goodbye gets too overwhelming, you can try my personal favorite tactic and just hide in the bathroom to avoid the goodbye altogether.
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