Learning to let go

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel out of state to attend an amazing professional development training. I put a lot of effort into finding adequate funding so I could attend and eventually bring some important information back to my school, my colleagues and the students in my classroom. 

I registered for the conference, booked my travel and marked the date on my calendar months in advance.

As the summer progressed, that once far-off date got closer and closer, and I started to experience a wealth of mixed emotions. I had feelings of excitement, as I’d have the opportunity to network with — and learn from — educators from across the country. 

I was also hopeful that I would have time to myself, including evenings to process the information I was learning — and possibly some time to go sightseeing in a new and different place. 

Preparing to leave

But as my departure date got closer, the reality of the experience started to surface. This wasn’t a vacation per se; it was going to be an intense six-day work trip. 

As an elementary school teacher, my work life usually doesn’t take me far away from my family, as my professional responsibilities typically complement my four kids’ schedules. 

Because I would be gone for six full days, it took quite a bit of mental energy to plan and prepare, making sure my children had good care during times that I would typically be with them, and jotting notes for those who would be taking over my responsibilities. 

In the end, with the support of my husband, my family and friends, I was able to embark on my travels and attend my training with an undistracted presence, knowing all at home was under control.

Reflecting on my experience, I know I took away more than the rich wealth of information I received at my training. I also gleaned some insight into myself a mother and as an individual:

It’s normal to worry

But it’s also important to let go. 

We care deeply for those who we love, and with that comes an element of worry when we let go of some control. 

The fact that I’d be traveling so far away from home intensified my misgivings associated with the anticipation for my trip. This was the longest stretch of time I’d been away from my children by myself and I was experiencing some separation anxiety as a parent. 

But the truth was, my husband and our childcare providers were totally capable of keeping everyone and everything under control, and this trip was going to be a great professional experience. 

I just had to let go, which is something that, for this mama, is taking a little bit of practice to master as my babies are growing into more independent children. 

Leading by example

I didn’t want my own worries to get in the way of my actions, and I wanted to be a positive role model for my children. 

As I felt some stress start to accumulate, I shared my feelings with my husband and children. I had especially rich conversations with my 10-year-old daughter who has had some difficult times away from home at sleepovers. 

I told her I was nervous about leaving home and that I was surely going to miss everyone, but I told her I was going to be brave so that I could get the most out of my experience. 

She was able to see me successfully work through my feelings of apprehension and focus on a positive outcome, and — based on some of her recent actions — I think she was able to take something away from her perspective of my experience and apply it to her own life. 

I know this six-day stint away from my kids is just a precursor to what’s to come as my children grow and become more independent, embarking on their own travels. 

Letting go can be difficult at times, but it’s what we need to do to help our children develop confidence, ambition and the courage to take risks, occasionally getting out of their own comfort zones to enrich their lives. 

Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher and mother of four. She lives in Northeastern Minnesota. Write her at mdevine@mnparent.com and check out her blog at kidsandeggs.com.