Arrivals and Departures

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Sometimes, in fact many times, I just pass through airports without really thinking about what they represent for many travelers. However, there are thousands of stories per day that come with every arrival and departure at any given airport. We’ve all seen the heart-warming hugs that sometimes happen when families and friends are reunited in the arrivals area, and we have also all seen the tears and sad good-byes that happen in the departures area. Whether it is a grandparent ending their trip visiting their grandkids or a parent leaving their family to be deployed in the military for a year, there are some pretty dramatic departures that take place at airports.

This week I had one of my hardest departures in a while. I flew my three year old to her grandparents house in Kansas both to give her some quality family time bonding with grandparents and cousins, but also because we need some coverage for her while we completed a trip. I love the idea of her spending a few days at her grandparent’s house in the summer with her cousins, but I hadn’t originally planned for that to first happen without us when she was still just 3 years old. I had always figured she would be closer to 5, and would be a bit more self-sufficient before we did something like that.

However, the plans in my head and the reality of life don’t always line up perfectly, so we went forward with this plan a little earlier than we had originally thought. She was in great hands, and was having a blast with her cousins (whom she called her sisters), but when the time came for me to leave it was hard.


I have left her with family members while we traveled many times starting at the ripe old age of 5 months old, but this was different. This time I was leaving her in another state at a house where she had previously only spent a limited amount of time. Maybe it wasn’t that different in practice, but it sure felt different to me.

Luckily when the time came to drive me to the airport we took her 7 year old cousin with us and she was so engrossed with playing with her cousin that she hardly noticed I was leaving. I had prepared her for weeks that I would be leaving her at grandma’s for a few days, so she knew what was happening, but in that moment she was way more interested in her cousin than my departure…which was a good thing. I know to keep goodbyes short and sweet and leave while she is still happy whenever possible. I managed to keep a smile on my face as I waved goodbye to her as they dropped me off in the departures area of the airport.

As soon as I entered the airport and they drove away, the forced smile was gone. I bee-lined it toward a nearby corner and let a few tears sneak out. I was really sad to be flying away from her, and I couldn’t successfully hide it any longer than I already had. Thankfully, I was able to prevent the quiet tears from becoming a full-on ugly crying session, but only barely. While she may not have known it during that happy moment while she was distracted by her cousin, I knew that before long she was going to want her mommy, and I wouldn’t be there. I knew I missed her mischievous smile already.


Even though it was only going to last for a few days, this departure was hard. I’m sure at least a few people saw my quiet tears in the airport, just as I have seen them from others from time to time. After a few moments I swallowed the lump in my throat and went through the mindless process of clearing security, boarding the flight, and taking off, only to fly further away from my little buddy.

By all reports she is having a great time in Kansas, and very soon I will fly back and scoop up all 37 pounds of her. Even if she is in a cranky mood when I land, it will be an arrival to look forward to.

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  1. Leaving to stay with relatives, first day of school, first day of summer camp…tears are our natural response.

    I have a friend who (with his wife) have been taking care of their granddaughter while the parents are stationed overseas. That will soon change, when the parents will be re-deployed Stateside.

    My friend says that he tears up just thinking about the upcoming separation from his granddaughter.

  2. I think, as parents, we always tend to second guess ourselves . Guilt just comes with the territory. You always wonder, if you are doing the right thing. Its exhausting, isn’t it? Sounds like she is doing just fine, though.

  3. The independence she will gain from this and other trips where she is with relatives who love her will be so beneficial. That’s not much compensation to you, I know, but the more C learns to cope without Mommy, the stronger she will be, the more fearless she will become, and — at least for me anyway — there is NOTHING BETTER IN THE WORLD than coming home to my kids from a trip — the look on their faces, the hugs that seem to suck out all the energy in the room — is just unbelievably rewarding.

  4. Awww, it is hard to leave our precious babies. I am sorry it hit you so hard. Here are two things that made me tear up at the HNL airport last week….Hubby and I had an AMAZING 9-night vacation with our two daughters, loads of fun and adventure, was feeling truly blessed as we wrapped up our trip and were waiting for our departure. As we sat at the gate, another flight was arriving and there was someone holding up a Make A Wish sign, there to greet a Wish child and family…….. Not five minutes later an exhausted Mom approached the agent explaining their flight earlier in the day was canceled and she was waiting with her special needs son for a later flight on which they had been booked and asked if there was any way they could get on this flight instead of having to wait a couple more hours. Sadly, full flight and no room for that Mom and her child. As we were boarding I saw her son and it was not going well. 🙁 As the Mom of two healthy daughters, both of these situations tugged at my heart. So, yes, tears and lots of emotion going on at airports. On a happier note, once at LAX, we visited the intl terminal and saw a bunch of people peering over that wall near the blue backdrop watching for their loved ones to walk up that ramp and spill out into the waiting area. Lots of joy! It was a special sight to see!

  5. It is so special when it’s just you and your first (or only) kiddo. Even though we had our second when the fist was only two, I remember how amazing those times were when it was just me and her. We barely left her for a few hours at a time in those days, but that was more because of not having family close, rather than an unusual amount of reluctance.
    I think it is especially hard to leave them somewhere doing something that you’d like to be sharing with them. When I think back to being a kid at my grandparents’ house, though, I don’t ever remember missing my parents. And I both love and really like my parents, but if there was a grandma and grandpa around (or cousins, too!) I don’t recall ever being homesick.

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