In 2006, we were at the airport waiting to board a plan for Pittsburgh when Miguel asked me how old he would have to be to fly alone. I told him that I was pretty sure he would have to be 12. He stood up, walked over to the gate attendant and asked him about the airline's policy for children traveling without a parent. The man told him that a child can fly alone at the age of 5. Miguel thanked him, came back to me and announced, "You only have to be five - I'm old enough to fly by myself right now!" Since then, he has often dreamed of flying solo and, this morning, he did just that - he flew to Denver to visit his aunt and uncle.
When Miguel started walking, he never really looked back. It was as if he knew the world was big and there was much to do. I remember him, at 13 months, marching down the street ahead of us without hesitation. I can close my eyes and picture his strong little legs in constant motion and the certainty with which he carried himself. We were left behind, left to watch him go. This is how it has been for us. He has never clung to us - he has begun each adventure with a smile and a small wave before turning and going on his way. There are times, though, when I wish that he would turn back...times when I wish he would hold onto me just a little bit tighter than I hold onto him. As parents, we are the masters of conflicted feelings. We want so desperately to keep our children in our arms but know that we have to let them go. We want them to want us but want them to be able to leave us behind. We want them to need us but we take pride in their independence. I have let a lot of people go over the years, sometimes with the ease of clarity and sometimes reluctantly and with great sadness. I really thought I knew everything there was to know about letting someone go... and then I had a child. There is no single feeling when letting your child go - it is a mix of every feeling. In my darker moments, when I am filled with fear or consumed by my own needs, I want to hold on tightly - I want to keep him. But, I have learned through loving Miguel that those moments will pass and, in their passing, leave beauty in their wake.