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Letting Go of Children...and Parents

By Moushumi Chakrabarty

Letting go of children. And parents.

They say it is hard to let go. I realized how right they were when I first let my little daughter ride a bike without training wheels.

Despite that pit of fear and unease in my stomach I let the other one dress herself for school, daily, without supervision. Itís another matter that while she is in the room changing, I consume mini-chocolate muffins by the dozen, distractedly wondering if she has done her hair properly (read - to my satisfaction). As parents, we freefall often, learning to slacken our hold so that our young ones can swing on their own.

Clinging on to your young is a natural instinct. As a parent, you canít believe theyíll be a hundred per cent clean when they lisp, ďBut I can have a bath by myself!Ē Thatís because, in your mindís eye, you can see the umbilical cord dangling even if the doctor did swear heíd cut it off.

This summer, I learnt you have to let go of parents too. Mine visited me from India and the long journey from Poona (where they live) to Canada, was a dream come true for all of us. We had planned this for a long time. As the final arrangements for visa and tickets were being made, I made elaborate plans about what I would cook, where we would go for evening walks, how we would gossip about every one we knew. There was so much to show them, so much to talk about. When they finally arrived here in April, our joy knew no bounds. We all became children again, I think, taking pleasure in each otherís company, laughing at silly jokes, discussing family events which happened decades ago.

Life became a series of heart warming moments in those months. Early morning tea with the newspaper between us, watering the lawn, commenting on the growing salvia and roses, cooking together with my mother - all punctuated by frequent chats, much laughter and shared memories. The afternoons when we lay down together, just happy to be one family after so many years, the evening walks and night-time rituals of a game of ludo or chess with the kids and hot chocolate before bed - all these moments surrounded me, so that I could not picture a time when these would be absent.

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As the end of their stay drew near, I began to think about how it was possible to make this a permanent arrangement. The answer was immigration. They could stay here with us. In Canada, we could offer them a healthy life, free from worry about dead telephones every week, long queues at the bank, roads bursting with traffic and gas fumes. My father was retired, my mother would be glad of the kidsí company everyday. For my children, what could be more beneficial than having their grandparents around? In other words, a win-win situation all around.

Things didn't quite work out like that. I realized after many talks, a few tears and sulks, that they had their own life in their own home. One which didnít always include me! They had their own set of friends, their clubs, their brothers and sisters, their little everyday routines which they were unwilling to give up. In Canada, I could give them material comforts, but what about the rest? At their age, they would find it difficult to make new friends, find new interests, adopt a whole new way of life.

So they went back to India in August. Driving back from the airport, I chewed over the fact that letting go is one thing that doesnít get easier with practice.

© Moushumi Chakrabarty
Moushumi Chakrabarty is a poet, editor and anthologist. She began writing in elementary school in her native India and has never put down the pencil.


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