As I gathered the pieces of my broken heart (and trust me they were everywhere), I thought to myself that there was something comforting (even if it's at great personal distress to me) that my child wanted to set those boundaries. He wanted to let me know that he was ready to create an identity of his own (that still definitely included me just not as his focal point, which used to be the case up until now).
It's a harrowing dichotomy when I think of it: I wanted to be his number one person, but I also wanted him to spread his wings and fly. This brings me to the messy business of what we parents have to do as we launch our little ones. We have to not only let them go, but be let go by them. We have to let them be their own people, let them experience the world in the way they have to, in the way that they need to. These types of transitions happen early on in life, that first time you leave your child to go to a meeting, a date, their first day at school. I thought I was OK with all that because I was the one doing all the leaving. I was the one letting go. Being on the "let go" side is a whole different predicament because it's when your child is calling the shots, when they are letting you know that they are choosing to walk away, choosing to assert those boundaries. I am on the receiving end now and it stinks.
For me, it has been one of those years of transition as I have launched my second and last child off to kindergarten. She used to be a permanent fixture by my side up until quite recently. At times, I would find myself exasperated because I wanted that space, I wanted so desperately to interact with the other adults at social gatherings, instead of having my little one glued to me. But over some time and now particularly in kindergarten, a shift has occurred where she wants to be her own person, where she walks into a social gathering and claims her space. I am no longer the one claiming that space for her, she is doing it herself and — much to my awe-stricken self — quite amazingly. I am no longer the one who is being chased. I am doing the chasing and I am beginning to miss my permanent fixture self who turns out, wasn't so permanent after all.
Letting go — it's easy when you are the one doing it; it's harder when it's done to you. Cognitively, I am aware of this, but emotionally, I want to have each of them plopped on either lap holding them tight.