It is almost September again, the time of year when mothers and fathers are sending their children off to pre-school, kindergarten or college for the first time. Some children will laugh and run right into their class. Some will hang on tightly to mother’s or father’s hand. Some parents will be celebrating their new freedom; some will be mourning the loss of a childhood. Whatever the scenario, I’ve come to realize that letting go of our children is a natural progression of life.
I remember several years ago when we dropped our son off at college for the first time. We packed all his worldly belongings into a 1995 Ford Taurus and headed for Biola University in La Mirada, California. He was almost 21 at the time and had worked and gone to junior college for several years before transferring to the university. He was ready to go and I felt confident that he would do well there. I was ready for him to go; ready for him to experience life outside of our small town; ready for him to know what it is like to live on his own; ready for him to meet new people and make friends whom he will hopefully have for a lifetime. And yes, ready for him to meet a “nice Christian girl” and settle down. I was ready to let go.
Letting go is a process. Their first step, their first sleep-over, the first day of school, to their first trip without you is a progression of trust for both parent and child. The child trusts that mom and dad will still be there when they return and will joyfully welcome them home. The parents trust that the child will remember what they’ve been taught and wear clean underwear.
Each new adventure our children have tests our parenting skills and our faith in God. It is through the raising of our children that we learn about God and about ourselves. Our children teach us how to live and love like Jesus. We learn what it means to love unconditionally. We learn how to care about someone other than ourselves. We know how it feels to love someone enough to give our life for that person. We learn how to trust God more completely as we must now trust him with our most precious possession. We learn how to pray.
After my son Joel preached at our church for the first time, I received many compliments. “You have done a great job parenting”, people said. “You have raised him well.” The truth is he has raised me well. He has made me a better parent, a better person.
They say when you become a parent your heart is never again your own. I suppose this is true as it feels that a part of my heart is now at Biola. The humorist Erma Bombeck said children are like kites. “You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground. You run with them until you’re both breathless … they crash … you add a longer tail … they hit the rooftop … you pluck them out of the spout. You patch and comfort, adjust and teach. You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they’ll fly. Finally, they are airborne, but they need more string and you keep letting it out. With each twist of the ball of twine, there is a sadness that goes with the joy because the kite becomes more distant, and somehow you know that it won’t be long before that beautiful creature will snap the lifeline that bound you together and soar as it was meant to soar — free and alone. Only then do you know that you did your job.”
I am ready to stand back and watch my son soar to new heights and a new direction knowing that his kite string is still fully in hands of his Heavenly Father.
A few weeks after I dropped my son off at college he called me. He needed my help, he frantically said. “What is wrong!” I replied. I am already calculating how long it would take me to get to La Mirada. “I’ve gotten a piece of dental floss stuck in my tooth and I can’t get it out!” he exclaimed. As I try to contain my laughter he continued, “It is not funny, Mom! I have class in an hour and this piece of floss is so big you could hang something on it.”
Ever the loving supportive mother, I gave him some tips on removing the floss, but not before I ask him to send me a photo of his predicament with his camera phone. As my cell phones beeps again with the incoming photo, I sighed. “Ah, my son still needs me.”