The floods of tears are not happening as often as I thought they would. But they are there, threatening to burst their banks at every given opportunity. He’s leaving soon – and I am prouder than any mother, but so sad that my oldest child is flying the nest.

We have spent hours filling in paperwork, scanning documents, completing medical forms, photocopying passports, getting “He is really Jewish” letters from rabbis – all to prepare for his Aliyah that is now only 6 months away.

I must admit that I am a control freak, (I believe that my son will agree with that statement), but I am trying as much as possible to make him responsible for the forms and the copies and the letters – but even with that, it’s hard for me to relinquish complete control. He needs to know how to take care of the red tape by himself. If he’s going to be a grown-up living his own life 5000 miles away – he needs to be able to do this on his own.

But I am not ready to let go. Once he’s left, once that Nefesh b’Nefesh flight has taken off with him and his Garin Tzabar friends, that is it. I am no longer the full-time always-available mother to fix everything for him, I am no longer the safest / closest port – he’s going to build his own port, and sail his own ships.

There are times that I just stop and look at him. I feel my heart burst with immense pride. It seems like yesterday I held him for the very first time, and tomorrow he leaves on his own journey. The time in between has flown. The mark of a good parent is one who prepares his / her children for life on their own, and lets them go when the time is right. The letting go is almost as hard as the raising. My younger sons will benefit in the long run, because as usual, Aryeh is the guinea pig, the trailblazer, the one that makes me adjust to situations whether I am ready or not. So much pressure for him being the oldest child!

He’s tall and broad-shouldered. He talks like a man, he thinks like an adult. I feel tiny standing next to him. He actually listens to some of the things I have to say and considers them carefully, not dismissing my opinion out of hand immediately just because it’s his mother that is saying it. I guess this means he has grown-up.

His leaving, his Aliyah, brings our family into a new era, whether we want it to or not. As parents we are entering the empty-nester stage – granted it’s only one child leaving, and we have 8 years until they have all flown the coop (not that I am counting), but with three sons very close in age, within the blink of an eye three out of four boys will be Israel. As Aryeh ends his army service the next in line will be serving and the third will just have signed up.

You see, it’s not just one of my boys that wants to make Aliyah. It’s all of them. (Well, the little one says he’s going to stay behind and take care of Ima, but he’s 10. Things change). I couldn’t be prouder. I couldn’t be more envious.

My life happened the way it did, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, I wish that at 17 I had wanted to make Aliyah. I wish that at that age I had the presence of mind to decide to do what was right for me and have the bravery to just go and do that. That’s probably one of the reasons I haven’t stood in Aryeh’s way, that I have cheered him on this path from the get-go, that I have supported him 100%. I am proud that he can think for himself, and do what HE feels is right for HIS life. At 17 I was focused on other things and while regrets don’t help, if I would have made Aliyah then I wouldn’t have to be missing my boys so much when they would be doing their army service. They’d be coming home to me on weekends and furloughs.

It is what it is, and thankfully Aryeh has a network of family and friends waiting to welcome him with open arms.

Unconditional love – I don’t think one can truly know what that is until one has a child. It is this love that will allow me to let him go, that will give me the strength to walk away from the airport knowing my son is moving on toward a new life, a life of his choosing. I will be crying, sobbing no doubt, but those tears will be a mixture of selfish tears and prideful ones.

That will be a day that I hope to be able to say the bracha of Shehechyanu and mean it. “Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

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