There was dancing in the kitchen this morning. A lot of dancing. It is the time between tears and laughter, these are the moments of soaking up the last of this life in Europe for our two oldest. They’ve come to call Dresden home over the past year. They know their way to school, shortcuts and all. They’ve navigated a new language and culture, absorbed the intimidation of walking into a foreign school on foreign soil, and embraced the belonging which can only come with time.
Last week over dinner I thought it would be a good idea to create a Dresden bucket list— the things they haven’t tried but want to before they leave, and favorite things they want to savor one last time. The list was remarkably short, which surprised me at first, but as our conversations have continued, it turns out that people, not events are important. Feelings, rather than places stick in their minds. Those are the things that went on the list. Of course.
They want to have dinner with a family we’ve come to love, and who has adopted Sam as a sort of second son. They want to take some friends to their favorite pool, and taste some final German dinners which remind them of the many evenings we’ve shared reflecting on our days around this table.
All four of our children have had vastly different experiences here, but the elder two, who spent the whole year here, have one similarity— missing their dad and some few chosen friends back home, but really treasuring what they’ve had here this year enough to be truly sad to say goodbye. There was independence beyond what any young teenager can safely enjoy in the States, there was the risk and thrill of venturing out on their own knowing their English would be unlikely to get them out of being lost here. The experience of making new friends, the opportunity to recreate themselves on a fresh slate, but also the risk of not having those old fallbacks who love you no-matter-what on your hard days. These two are sad to leave, really palpably sad. And that makes me happy. That is the sign that our time here was worth it. They got what they needed— true immersion, enough time to feel at home, and enough space to realize what it is that makes you feel safe and connected in a land that holds very little familiarity. My heart breaks with the sobs of missing what will likely be a tribe of lifelong friends, but it is also full to bursting watching the goodbyes. I know these goodbyes symbolize the love that has grown this year, a sign that no matter where they are, they will find these relationships, and that this year they’ve learned in a new way the very value of them.
There are many tests of whether or not you’ve succeeded as a parent. The one I really care about is whether or not my children will be able to fly the nest and find content lives on their own. Content, not always happy. They must know that there will be problems, and find ways to solve them without a parent, and a critical part of that is attracting their tribe. If this year is any measure at all, I think these kids are well equipped.
I’ll spend the next week with them savoring moments of joy with friends, dancing in the kitchen of our tiny apartment which we’ve come to love, and yes, wiping lots of tears. Next Sunday we’ll make one last trek to Berlin together, I’ll stick them on a plane and we will close this chapter of their lives. It’s been a monumental one, and I can’t wait to watch its usefulness unfold in their lives, as it will in mine.