This morning, as he got ready for school, Miguel yelled, "Where's my hair gel?" I reminded him that I had packed it in his duffle bag. "A middle school boy needs his hair gel, Mom." I smiled, "I get it. A middle-aged mom needs hers too." He used mine and lived to gel another day.

The morning was a blur of checking things off lists and making sure that everything he needs for the next three weeks was packed. The conversation was filled with "Remember…" and "It's in your bag" and "Check your folder" and "Do you need…" The foyer was filled with stuff and Zeca maneuvered quietly around her brother's bags to pack her backpack for school. Somehow, we managed to get everything ready and loaded into the car to head to school. Zeca was returning to school after a week off due to a frozen water main and Miguel was heading to the school's rural campus in Wisconsin for three weeks.

On the way, I talked about the first time Miguel went on a school trip and how hard Zeca cried when he left. Miguel said, "You're not even going to miss me this time, are you? You're probably glad I'm leaving." She rolled her eyes and said, "I'll miss you…" and left it with that even though her inflection suggested that she wanted to qualify her statement. She is no longer four years old and the shine has long worn off her big brother. I know there is part of her that enjoys being an only child every once in awhile, enjoys the extra attention and quiet.

When we got to school, Luisa and I carried Miguel's bags and he carried the bottled water for Zeca's classroom.

"You're kicking the bag, Miguel!"

"I'm not doing it on purpose!:

"Just let me carry it myself!"

This is how it goes a lot of the time. She sees his help as just slightly off the mark in some way.

At the entrance of the school, they said their goodbyes and Miguel tried to hug her tightly and she looked disinterested.

An enthusiastic "Bye Zec!" met with a quiet "Bye."

It was done. I teared up a bit because it wasn't the parting I wanted for them. I found myself wishing that she would miss him terribly, that she would cry like she did when she was younger. I know it says nothing about them or their relationship or even their feelings about one another. It is about me and the meanings I make of situations, the fear I have about what the future holds for them. I want the best for them as individuals and as brother and sister but I have to embrace the fact that I can't know what that is.

We walked Miguel to the junior high and reminded him one last time to get his math binder and it was clear that it was time for us to go. We each got a hug and then he was gone. Luisa worried about what he might forget but I didn't - not because I thought he would remember everything but because I know this is how we learn to let go. These moments teach us that goodbyes do not always look the way we want them to and forgotten binders will not always be our concern. In the small ticks of time, we learn that we are not the writers of this story but invested observers.