So last week I wrote about how all Spring Breaks are not created equal. Today I’m introducing a corollary – all goodbyes are not created equal.
For me, the Spring Break thing was all about handling Facebook posts from other parents. Some cadets will have rousing adventures with their families, some will come home and sleep all week, and others will not come home at all. That makes it a good time for some of us to take a break from Facebook because when you don’t get to see your cadet, seeing pictures of hugging families having the times of their lives can be a little tough to swallow. Hey, we’re only human, right?
Well, the goodbye thing to me is a little more personal.
Although my daughter is a Doolie … oops, Recognition is over, make that C4C, this is my sixth year of saying military academy goodbyes beginning with my son’s Induction Day at the United States Naval Academy (for the record, my worst day as a father and it’s not even close). Since that USNA I Day, goodbyes tended to get a little easier (with some exceptions) because the anxiety eased and we began to understand the routine. We could say goodbye knowing he was OK and, give or take, when we’d see him again.
With my daughter, it’s been different and I’m not sure I understand why.
Leaving her at the Prep School was a tough one. While there wasn’t nearly as much drama as the USNA dropoff (partly due to COVID-19 restrictions leading to a “drop and run” scenario and in part because she and I both understood what was about to go down), I still left with a lump in my throat.
Fast forward to Sunday – the end of Spring Break – and it was exactly the same. Well, maybe not exactly. I mean, there’s a difference between watching your daughter walk into a building on the Air Force Academy grounds and through security at the airport. But the lump was there along with some moist eyes.
I watched her put her shoes back on, slip on her coat, and sling her backpack over her shoulder, glancing back and waving one last time before fading into the crowd. I stood, frozen for a few moments before slowly turning and heading back to the car.
The drive back was a mix of singing along to a Spotify playlist (something I would never torture a passenger with) and turning off the music after getting choked up. Maybe it’s because I’ll miss her because we had such a fantastic break. Maybe it’s because I know she’s dreading grinding out the last few weeks of the semester. Maybe it’s because her backstory makes me more protective of her than her brother. There are a million reasons for me to get emotional and it’s most likely a combination of half of them.
I don’t know if, like my son, those feelings will dissipate.
When these sorts of emotions sweep over you, you know the drill. Focus on the positive, remember the good times, know that she’s in a great place doing amazing things, anticipate the next phone call and the next time you’re going to see her. But you know, sometimes it’s good to get it out of your system. You can’t bottle these things up.
I’ll take the advice I give my kids – give yourself 24 hours to feel sorry for yourself, then get over it. I don’t think I’ll need 24 hours, honestly. I already spent time making some postcards out of the pictures we took during Spring Break and they made me smile, realizing just how much fun we had doing very little at all.
So whether your goodbye was a big hug after a great week together or a phone call after their adventure, enjoy it. Goodbyes may not all be created equal, but they all have equal importance.
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Sidenote: we DID have a great Spring Break! Hope you did, too.