The Letting Go

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
The Letting Go

My daughter started kindergarten two weeks ago, and suddenly she belongs to the world rather than to me. Or so it seems.

On the very first day, as I watched the school bus swallow her up and vanish around the corner, it hit me like a ton of bricks. No longer do I get to dictate where/when/how she goes to school. (I mean, I know I can, but you know what I mean). No longer do I pay a hefty monthly tuition that ensures that I know all the ins and outs of her day, know her teachers, just… know. Now, most of what I can know comes from what she thinks to tell me, which usually amounts to a whole bunch of “fines” and “I don’t remembers” as she ravages the snack cabinet, famished from this mystery day.

Meanwhile, my questions run like an endless record over and over in my head: Is she scared? Is it hard? Does she like some parts better than others? Are the other kids nice to her? Is she nice to them? Is she eating her lunch? Is she acting out? Is she being brave? Is she being kind? Is she raising her hand? Who are her new friends? Is she showing her dramatic side or her shy side? What is confusing to her? What doesn’t make sense? How does she get on the bus at the end of every day? How does she pick out her library books? Who helps her open her lunch bags? Is she learning anything new? Does she feel smart? Does she feel pretty? Is she laughing? Is she relaxed? Am I forgetting anything? Does she need anything? Will she tell me?

I am also literally watching her turn into a newly independent person right before my eyes—she is “trying on” different expressions, different phrasings, different laughs. She’s requesting new types of hairstyles. She’s simply becoming her own, and up until now I thought she already was. But now I realize that the big world of school, a world that she inhabits completely separate from me, is allowing her to discover herself, find her way. Alone. And I just have one thing to say about that:


It’s hard, this letting go. And I know this is just the first of hundreds and thousands of letting goes I will do over the course of my parenting.

A week or so before she started school my husband and I found ourselves with a kid-free morning and decided to tackle the horror that had become of our storage/furnace room in the basement. This had become a storage room for all the things we “might need some day” but don’t use regularly, and it had grown wild and wooly, with things tossed in every direction, without concern for order or organization. As we sorted through the chaos we (I) began to realize how few of things we were saving we actually needed; that in fact most of it was just clutter. As we began to purge the clutter we found ourselves with a leaner, cleaner, lighter storage room. And I haven’t missed a single item purged from that room yet.

I wonder if this is the way the letting go goes. We hold on so tightly to things that we NEED. Things we MUST HAVE. Things that simply CAN’T BE PARTED WITH. Whether it is literal things, like that printer from 2005 in our storage room, or figurative things, like the need to know/control every aspect of my daughter’s day. But once we are able to let go, we are so much better for it. And I know my daughter will become a stronger/better/brighter person because of this letting go.    (gulp.)

What can you let go of?  


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.