Don't cry, she tells you, when you see the faint, faded lines on her arms that were angry red, fresh lines of carved pain when she left. You can't tell her it's from relief and realization, how you can see the proof of what needs to be done.
Don't cry, you tell yourself, when you realize you won't be the one to teach her to drive, or to see her get her first job. That she won't be there for you to take to get haircuts and crazy hair color. That you'll miss out on her last year of school. That she won't go with you to have kitchen utensil fights in the aisles of grocery stores, or buy silly impulse items that neither of you really need just for the fun of it.
Don't cry, you tell yourself, because you know this is the best thing for her, and all you ever wanted was for her to be happy.
Don't cry, you tell her, as she gets ready to walk through security at the airport. You don't have to feel guilty, you tell her, you're allowed to want to be happy. She deserves to be happy.
Don't cry, you tell yourself, she'll be somewhere where you don't have to worry every day whether she'll be okay by the time you get home, or worry about if she hates you, or feel guilty for being happy when she was so miserable. Though you will still worry.
Don't cry, you tell yourself, when you walk into the empty house, that now will no longer hold the sounds of a family.
Don't cry, as you try to tell yourself you're not a failure as a parent, because you've done everything you can to try to help her, including letting her go.
Don't cry, you tell yourself, or you might never stop.