You promised yourself and your family you wouldn’t cry, that you’d maintain your composure.
After all, this is that moment when the baby you have cared for with such tenderness spreads their wings and begin to move forward into the wild, blue yonder.
A couple of years ago I wrote about that moment of letting go, as your child seems to march directly from Pomp and Circumstance at their high school graduation to the future awaiting them through the open door of the great world beyond. You wonder where the years went, as you think about that little five year old you accompanied to kindergarten. Wasn’t that just yesterday?
For those of you with young children, know that the years will compress and glide past you at increasing speeds. The excitement of that first day of school blends into years of lows and highs, of morning battles over getting up, being able to borrow the car, of confidences shared and prayers answered.
Treasure every day, and know as well that every year, although you will hold their heart forever, you will hold their hand just a little bit less.
For those of you who are making last minute purchases, signing reams of forms, and loading your car to the gills, I dedicate this post.
Many of you will be facing the bittersweet moment this month of watching your child head off to college. Your heart swells with pride at what a terrific young adult your baby has grown into, yet you are concerned about letting go, and letting them grow on their own.
I know. We have been there.
The first time we dropped our eldest off at college, I thought I was going to be just fine. I was so excited for her, and the plans she was making for herself. She was and is an independent thinker who is guided by a strong core of decency and knowing right from wrong.
What could I, or any other mom possibly be, other than exceptionally proud?
Oh. I could be a blubbering mom.
Just like those before me, and those who would follow.
I would get better over the years at saying goodbye, but as someone who can be brought to tears by the slightest hint of emotion in a TV commercial, it has always been a bit of a struggle for me.
We have been there twice, with both daughters. We have seen them off, not only to the start of their college careers, but also to side trips that had me stressing.
There was the weeklong bare bones hike into the mountains with no soap or shampoo, and-gasp!-no electronics, that also required each participant to spend one night camping completely alone. (Quick-where is that paper bag I keep handy so that I can stop hyperventilating?)
There was the trip we weren’t able to make to JFK airport, in New York City, to watch the plane whisk our daughter to Paris for her junior year abroad. That was tough. Especially the panicked phone call from her, hundreds of miles away, saying that she had left her backpack-her life, her passport-in the van when it dropped her at the airport. (She was reunited shortly with her pack, thankfully!)
Breathe, breathe, breathe.
There is goodness and gratitude to be found in this place.
If you think your heart swells with pride and possibly constricts a little with concern at watching them leave home for the first time, just be patient, and watch them grow into adulthood. There is hope, for those of you who are in the midst of those “terrible, horrible, no good very bad” teen years. Much like the ordinary caterpillar who becomes a lovely butterfly, your child-who you may have joked about putting out in the yard with a “free to any home” sign-will transform into a really nice human being and a good friend.
Soldier on, my friends. Parenting is not an easy task, nor is it generally filled with gratitude from your teens. But the rewards are great. Grow them up, and let them go.
My takeaway for you today is simple.
Be a beacon of faith.
Be steadfastly firm, fair, and when the situation calls for it, flexible.
Look beyond the skirmishes of today to the rewards of tomorrow.
Keep the faith. As Hebrews 11:1 reminds us: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Question: Do you have a graduate leaving the nest? How are you coping? Have you lived through it and have wisdom to share?
Thanks so much for joining the conversation!