The tears were unexpected. This morning I made my daughter’s last lunch of her first grade school year. As I zipped up her lunch box, in a whisper, I told my husband that on her next birthday she will be eight and later this year she will enter second grade. Everyday I realize how much she is turning into her own person. Her questions center on ideas outside herself. A few days ago she asked about Betsy Ross and the Statue of Liberty. She is curious about geography, time, and space. The more she wonders about the world, I realize her center is expanding. As she discovers her own footing, it magnifies the tunnel in which I view time. The cadence is so fast, all of it pointing to one truth: how to let go.

Letting go is everywhere although we don’t always witness it. Near our house, in the cradle of a cactus, there is an owl’s nest. It is a popular attraction in our neighborhood. There are two baby owls nestled in their home, while the mother and father watch over them on the rooftops of  opposite homes. Anytime anyone nears the nest, their eyes narrow, waiting, protecting, and ensuring no harm comes to their babies. We all watched as the owlets, who first looked liked baby pups, grew to little mini versions of their parents. For almost 2 months, they cemented themselves to the nest, while the father owl brought food to nourish them. Yesterday, for the first time, the owlets took flight, their parents teaching them how to hunt and survive.

The intersection of my daughter finishing first grade and these owlets leaving, magnified what I already know. As I watched Les Miserables this past weekend, I was struck by one line uttered by Jean Valjean when looking at Cosette from a distance, realizing that his daughter was never his to keep.

I think that is what letting go is all about. Your children are never yours to keep.