If like me you’ve been taking your offspring to university, sending them to school for the first time or saying goodbye to people you love in other ways, for good or just for now, I wish you all the love and strength you need and offer this Pause For Thought, which was originally written for the Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 and can be heard here.
I’m not good at transitions. The changing of the seasons, the end of summer, saying goodbye to people, getting out of the bath, getting out of bed. There’s something in me that finds it hard to settle in a new situation, or leave it once I’ve settled, even when I know it’s right and I have somewhere to go.
And one of the hardest transitions I have faced in my adult life was as a parent saying goodbye to my first born when he went to university.
I tried to think of something to say to express what I felt, but it was too hard,
so I made a ham-fisted attempt at marking the moment, by asking if I could read from one of our shared books, Winnie The Pooh.
The two of us lying on the bed like we used to, my son Jake feeling all mixed up, a bit sad but mostly excited. A big 18-year-old, probably thinking: “This is a bit weird.”
And me with my heart breaking, trying not to show it.
Here’s what I read:
“Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in the enchanted place on the top of the forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing.”
Oh, I was a hot mess after that, while he went off and played Fifa or something.
And here we are again: as sons and daughters go off to school or college, and the summer fades. The change of any season is unsettling even when there are new joys to be found.
The autumn has great beauty, I’m told.
And my relationship with my son has changed into something adult, new and lovely, although long distance.
The Bible says nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that’s comforting, but I find it hard to understand in the abstract, until I look for examples in my own life, because it also says we are made in God’s image.
And I think AA Milne was on to something, whether it comes to leaving a place or a season or letting a child or a loved one go.
I think if you’ve got the memory, and the story to tell, and the love that was shared between you, then nobody can ever take that away.