Sometimes I struggle with what “Hands Free” parts of my life to share with my readers. I often think, “This story is too simple; it doesn’t have some grand revelation or painful admission.” But over the last few weeks, tragic events have come to our attention. Sadly, they are no longer unusual stories; they happen every single day to people just like you and me.
This post is dedicated to those who have suffered the ultimate loss of someone they love and would do anything for one last goodbye.
Are there times when you suddenly realize something you used to do for your child or grandchild is no longer needed?
Like when it occurs to you that you no longer need to hold him or her up to get a drink at a certain water fountain.
Or how the step stool he or she uses to help you in the kitchen is no longer required.
The worst is when you realize a word she couldn’t say correctly for the longest time (at our house it was ‘hanitizer’ instead of ‘hand sanitizer’ and ‘errupting’ instead of ‘interrupting’) now slides off her tongue with perfect pronunciation.
When that moment of realization hits me – that she grew up a little bit more somewhere between then and now – I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.
It feels like a miniature loss. And when this realization occurs, I experience a brief period of mourning knowing I will never hear the word “pasgetti” or see another backwards “s” again.
I became aware of one such loss as I waited to pick up my kindergartener in the carpool line recently. On this particular day, I could hardly wait to see her. For some reason, I was longing to hold her.
And then it hit me – one of those miniature losses.
Throughout the first several months of kindergarten, it was a tradition, a daily ritual, for us to exchange a hug and kiss before she got into the car to go to school. She never left without this expression of love for three solid months.
But now, it doesn’t happen anymore.
I racked my brain … when had it stopped?
I felt ashamed — I didn’t know.
All I knew was that now my five-year-old just hops into our friend’s vehicle with a smile and a quick, “I love you, Mama!”
I am sure many people are out there thinking, “Actually, that is GOOD. That is what you want your child to do … become independent.”
I would agree … EXCEPT … I am on a journey to grasp the moments that matter.
And a hug and kiss before you leave the company of someone you love is at the top of my official Moments That Matter List. In fact, it just MIGHT hold the #1 position of what really matters in life.
And I had a sneaking suspicion my child still needed, welcomed, and treasured a morning goodbye hug and kiss, but the tradition had just gotten lost in the chaotic morning rush.
Daily Distraction strikes again.
Well, I wanted the daily ritual back.
And I had the power to make it happen.
Immediately I thought of the parents who didn’t have the power to make it happen, and I couldn’t help but cry for them.
Lately it seems there are more and more tragic losses of precious children. I force myself to read these heart-breaking stories, like this one, this one, this one, or this one to the very end because I need those wake-up calls. I need to be shaken with the realization that there very well could be a day when my child (or significant other) walks out that door and never walks back in.
And God forbid, it would occur on a day that I didn’t give a hug and kiss goodbye.
So that evening, when my youngest child and I got out her talk time journal at bedtime, I immediately confessed I had been feeling badly about something.
I said, “Remember how we used to ALWAYS hug and kiss before you went to school each morning?”
She nodded solemnly, and I continued.
“Well, now you just hop in the car and wave goodbye with no hug and kiss. And I think it might be because I am so focused on ‘homework, backpack, lunch, snack, shoes, socks, and hair,’ that it gets forgotten.”
Her expression now matched my own face: sadness.
I pulled her onto my lap and whispered, “I don’t want it to be like that anymore. I don’t want you to leave without a hug and kiss before you go each morning. Would that be okay with you?”
She barely waited until I finished my sentence when an exuberant YES came out of her mouth.
And then my clever little kindergartener, who is accustomed to seeing yellow sticky-notes plastered to our microwave, doorknob handles, and countertops, quickly offered up a way to remember.
She picked up her journal, flipped to a clean page, and started writing. Within minutes, the reminder sign read:
“X-O-X-O Before You Go.”
The motto was brilliant – and it even rhymed! This creation definitely came straight from a singin’ ukulele-playing child.
The next morning, the ‘XO’ sign was fresh on her mind. She ran right over to the door leading to the garage to make sure I had placed it exactly where she instructed. When she saw it, she smiled so widely that her eyes became tiny slivers of joy.
Before long, we were doing the almost-time-to-go morning scramble to gather shoes, coats, and book bags.
But today I had something else on my mind. And it was taking priority over the not-as-important details.
I called out, “We can’t forget ‘XOXO Before You Go’!”
My older daughter, who was standing there ready to exit, raised her eyebrows and asked, “What is that?”
My kindergartner answered by happily demonstrating for her big sister. She ran into my arms and hugged me with all her strength, and then kissed me tenderly on the cheek.
Although my older daughter had a “you-guys-are-weird” look on her mature face, I grabbed her and kissed her, too.
She actually melted into me for several seconds. I swear she breathed my scent like an old familiar friend who had been sorely missed.
Minutes later, we pulled up to the carpool line at school. My five-year-old was the last to exit the car behind my oldest child and two friends.
“XO before you go!” she hollered as a pair of tiny pink lips planted one more kiss on my cheek without warning.
I had begun this day seeking ONE kiss and ONE hug. I got ended up getting three … and so much more. What mattered most was now as close as a breath upon on my face.
My cheek tingled on the spot where I was kissed – I hoped it might remain there all day.
I placed my hand softly over the warm spot on my face and thanked God for this beautiful reminder I had been given …
While I cannot control what happens once they leave my side, I can control what happens in those sacred minutes before we say good-bye.
If you wish to make one small, but impactful effort to let go of distraction and grasp what matters, I would suggest not being on the phone (or refrain from being distracted) when your children or loved ones exit your car or leave home. Whether they are just going to a friend’s house, sports practice, or just going to work like they do every day — that’s beside the point. When they leave your presence, give them a proper good-bye.
Let it be known they will be missed.
Let it be known they are loved.
Life can be cruel and unpredictable. Make the most out of every goodbye while you still have the chance.
And if necessary, make a reminder sign.
“X-O-X-O Before You Go” applies to anyone, regardless of age or gender.
*If you feel this is a worthy message, please share it. Someone out there will thank you for reminding him or her about the preciousness of a loving good-bye.
The XO Before You Go by Hands Free Mama, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.