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The heartbreak of really letting go

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  August 29, 2012 08:10 AM

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Thumbnail image for zack at airport.jpgI am a bit of a mess this morning.

I just put my son on a plane to China. Well, I put him on a plane to Newark, but from there he is headed to Beijing for a semester. 

I am trying really hard not to cry.

It's not so much about missing him. I mean, I'll miss him (I already do), but I'm used to missing Zack. We haven't seen much of him since he left for college a couple of years ago. He has done service projects on spring breaks, and spent this summer doing an internship in DC. And truth be told, he has a way of getting on our nerves when he's around for more than a few days (this is common with 20-year-olds), so we've been mostly okay with him being away.

But not this far away.

That's the thing. He is going to be half a world away. I can't get to him quickly if there is a problem. I don't speak the language of the place where he'll be. I don't know the culture. I don't know anybody there. I know, he can call or email me, but I am going to be really limited in what I can do to help.

I can't take care of him there. He really has to take care of himself.

It's not that I don't think he's capable. Zack is a very capable young man. He's bright, independent and resourceful. He doesn't need my help all that often...but being able to help has been important to me.

I love him more than I will ever be able to tell him or show him. He is unspeakably precious to me, and I would give my life for him in a heartbeat. That his well-being and safety is up to him and to others I don't know is heartbreaking.

It's so hard. From the first time you hold your child in your arms, they become part of you in inexplicable, wonderful and sometimes painful ways; you are never the same. And when they leave, they take part of your heart with them.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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