Hi. My name is Tracy. And I was a FTSM*.

You know that feeling you get where it seems as though an actual part of your body is being torn away as you watch that yellow school bus drive off into the sunset (well, I suppose sunrise if we’re being literal). Watching that blurry yellow square box get smaller and smaller through tear rimmed eyes? No? Just me?

Just Let Go!

I see you over there Karen—thank you for that hand—blowing your nose behind the venti travel mug, that early morning light reflecting in your eyes, just as red as mine! The day is finally here; our wee teeny tiny sweet little babies (well, let’s hold the term “babies” loosely, as mine is a mere half an inch from eclipsing my height and steals my shoes on the regular) are off on their grand adventure, their rite of passage of these middle school years coming to an end. The annual grade 8 week-long adventure on a tall ship with SALTS. How did we get HERE already?!

I blow my nose again. Not gonna lie, I was a blubbering mess that day (just living my truth here, people). IT IS HARD TO LET GO. I’m not very good at it. But I’m learning…I suppose by this point in parenting I don’t exactly have a choice anymore as the teenage years are in full force and the whole point is letting gooooo.

The truth is, I’m just as much a rookie at this whole experience as my kid is. I’ve never had to let go of this teen-child in this way before. Imagining her being tossed to and fro in the vast uncertainty of the open ocean, waves capsizing over the hull of the boat (whoa now. Calm down Trace. No actual capsizing waves were involved in the making of this commentary).

But as my shoulders continued to gently shake, I felt a hand on my arm. And then another on my shoulder.

My Security Blanket

Suddenly I found myself surrounded by a group of comrades in arms. They offered hugs and prayers. They looked me in the eye and said YOU’RE GOING TO BE OK. They had been here before. This wasn’t their first rodeo. And their words of comfort and encouragement wrapped me up like a blanket that I carried with me that week.

And it didn’t end there that morning. I continued to get Instagram and Facebook messages, checking in, saying prayers, cheering me on. YOU GOT THIS MAMA! *cough, cough #ericaennsisanactualangel*

Wow, I love this community. Like, I really, really love this community. I don’t think I could’ve made it through that week without those moms, some of whom I had never even had a conversation with before!

So, if this year, you find yourself as a second or even third timer with your eighth-grade mariner, look around you for those FTSM’s (don’t worry, you’ll spot them pretty quickly—look for the handfuls of tissues). A quick hand squeeze or a gentle arm around the shoulder can go a long way.

‘Cause we got this. Together, we got this.

*FTSM = First Time SALTS Mom