Setting Sail in 86 Days

Momservation: Don’t cry that it’s over. Be happy it happened. ~Dr. Seuss

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Eighty-six days. He’s still here for 86 days.

Some days, like today, the panic and sadness that it is ending and it will never be the same overwhelms me.

But that sorrowful dungeon is too dark a place to reside. So I remind myself that he is still here. And he will, God willing, always be here. It will just be different.

I try to remind myself that different can be good too. The changing seasons and the beauty that comes with each transition is proof of that.

But then in these last days of high school when I walk by his empty room, still not cleaned like I asked him, I imagine it different: bed permanently made, sports uniforms retired, no perpetual wet swim trunks on the floor, no fuzzy head poking out from the covers providing me relief that he is safe, a place of vibrant living and laughter turned museum to a past life.

Different then feels unbearable. It is a shot to the heart that makes me shut his door and force myself to say, “Live in this moment. He is still here. Eighty-six more days to cherish this time.”

This time. This time of raising my first-born son has been an absolute gift. A series of growth and changes that left sweet memories and hints that the best was yet to come.

I loved when he was born; Making me a mother and bringing with him a realization that love can be so much deeper and stronger than we could ever imagine or describe or promise.

I loved when he was a toddler; Seeing the world again through his eyes of wonder and enthusiasm, sharing with him the joys of this life, being this little person’s safe harbor of unconditional love.

I loved when he went off to school; Watching him tentatively venture out into open waters, discovering new joys outside of his family and interests that began to shape him, creating friendships that enriched him, and gaining an education that enlightened him.

I loved when he was a teenager; Feeling pride in his growing positive sense of self, the evidence of his talents and gifts, seeing a maturity, independence, intelligence and kindness to others validating that we did something right with this kid.

I loved it all. Every minute. The trials with the triumphs. The heartache with the hope. The love and laughter.

Now he is leaving in 86 days to go to college; a grown man eager and ready to explore what the open ocean brings.

As his mother this transition has become a leap of faith. Like a bungee jumper frozen on the edge of the bridge, eager for the experience but fearful of taking that necessary step to launch the adventure, I must trust that the chord will hold.

His father and I have raised the man we had envisioned when we first talked of building a family: Smart, strong, compassionate, loving, kind, confident, adventurous, optimistic, funny, thoughtful, generous…plus all the qualities that make him uniquely himself.

And independent.

We knew and hoped one day he would leave our safe harbor and set sail for his own adventure. And we hoped that the foundation of unconditional love and support and family would inspire him to not only come back home one day, but to expand that love with his own family.

If I look at it that way, this transition seems bearable. I will love this next stage just the way I loved all the others. Yes, it stings a little more now that his growth will no longer be happening under my roof, under my loving and watchful eye, in the safety of my harbor.

But you cannot swim to new horizons if you don’t have the courage to lose sight of the shore. For him. For me.

He’ll leave in 86 days. But he’ll be back. He’ll be different. I’ll be different. But it will be a beautiful new season.

#ClassOf2018  #Enjoy the journey  #SafeHarbor


  1. Regan R Johnson says:

    “But you cannot swim to new horizons if you don’t have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

    That’s a beautiful sentiment, Kelli, and it sums up your feelings of pride and fear in one sentence. Nice piece.

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Thanks, Regan. I’m trying everything I can to be mentally prepared to let this little boy go. I envision visiting him in Boise and catching a football game while there. I picture him having a blast in the dorms. I see him taking classes that excite him for his future. But the thing that works best is picturing him happy. I’m ready to swim (even if it is with floaties). 😉
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to let me know how the piece resonated with you!

  2. Jody says:

    I’ve read this piece a number of times now as I struggle with my own letting go. We’ve worked so hard to stay the course with Sam to get to this point and now I’m afraid to let go. So I will just remind myself of 86 days and be in the moment as best as I can.

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Right? We work so hard to make them independent when all we really want to do is never let them go! That’s why this is my favorite quote from Elizabeth Stone: “The decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
      We’re going to make it together, Jody. If they’re happy – we’re happy.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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