“Mom,” my 13 year old began, “can I go to Mississippi with Miles?”
Of course, the normal questions began to spill from my mouth. When? How much? What are you going to do? How are you getting there? Who is going?
As with any normal teenage boy, he knew very few of the answers. He began to gather details for me. His friend Miles and Miles’ dad were driving to Mississippi to help rebuild a church. Miles was planning to take a couple of his friends to help out on the adventure, and he wanted Cole to be part of the trip.
My heart was somehow simultaneously thrilled and terrified.
What a joy to know that my precious teenage son wants to give part of his summer to go across the country and work with a church, giving of his time and energy to participate in hard physical labor. I was absolutely bursting with pride on so many levels and absolutely overjoyed that Miles’ dad would be willing to take my son and pour into him!
And yet, the thought of sending my precious child across the country without me there to protect him was absolutely terrifying. Yes, I trust Miles and his family. Yes, I know God is going to be with them. But, what if they aren’t as adamant about seat belt use as I am? What if there’s an accident on the way? What if Miles’ dad falls asleep at the wheel? Somehow it seems so much safer if I am there to watch over my child.
My oldest got his driver’s permit five months ago. He has been driving us everywhere, putting in well over the required 55 hours of driving to be eligible to test for his driver’s license. In only five short weeks, he will be old enough to take his exam and drive solo.
I am simultaneously thrilled and terrified.
For the first time in nearly six years, I will not have to play chauffeur every waking moment. If I have an errand that I need someone to run, I can send my son. If he wants to stay after school and play basketball, I don’t have to make the extra trip into town to pick him up. If I need someone to run my daughter to tumbling, I can send him.
And yet, my son will be behind the wheel of a car without me there as an extra set of eyes. I will no longer be able to remind him to stop at every stop sign and make sure he uses his blinker before he turns. Who will be there to monitor his speed? Who will remind him that he needs to look before he changes lanes? Who will tell him to pull to the right when there’s an emergency vehicle? Somehow it seems so much safer for him to drive if I am there watching over him.
I always thought that I was a pretty laid back parent, that I don’t get too ruffled about things. But I am realizing that—when it comes to my kids—I like to be in control. I want to keep them close to me, keep them within reach so that I can grab them and pull them from danger. Sure, I will give them freedom to go places and do things, but I still want to be in control. I want to be the one watching over them, protecting them from all of the evil in this world. After all, no one else will watch my kids as closely as I will.
Honestly, when it comes to driving, I have reasons to be slightly concerned. You see, not only was I in a life-changing accident at the age of 20 (caused by a 16 year old male driver), but I have lost so many friends to car accidents.
But what I am truly struggling with is letting go of my children.
It seems like just yesterday that Blake was a 6 lb 12 oz preemie, cuddled up in my arms, coming alive at the sound of my voice. I remember so well when he finally teetered precariously across the living room by himself. I still see that brilliant little two year old teaching his grandma how to access the computer by typing my name in the password window. Surely it was just a few days ago that I dropped him off at his first day of preschool with Ms. Patty.
But in reality, he is now a 6’4” young man with facial hair. He is (still) brilliant and responsible. He has been out expressing his entrepreneurial spirit by trying to start a lawn mowing business this summer. He is a good driver that has proven himself behind the wheel. Honestly, I’ve been blessed with an amazing young man.
Cole is the same way. Despite the fact that I still see him as this precious little baby who was full of zeal and energy from the moment he was born, the reality is that he’s a mature, responsible, adventurous young man who has done a great job picking godly friends. His heart desires to know and love God more each and every day. He loves to serve others out of reverence for God. How doubly blessed I am! (I’m really triple blessed, but Cassie isn’t quite old enough for me to struggle with letting go of her. I can cling tightly a little longer…)
My kids are growing up. I know that I have to let them go, let them express themselves and their own personalities. I have to let them find their passion and purpose in life. I have to let them take risks and make mistakes and grow from them. I have to let them have adventures without me watching over their every move. I have to trust that I have poured enough into them to teach them how to make wise decisions. Most of all, I have to trust that God is watching over them, protecting them, because he is truly the only one who can.
I remember when this single parenting adventure began. Back then, I couldn’t see it as an adventure. But I remember so clearly my prayer of surrender to God.
“Lord,” I began, “I will take this, but don’t you dare mess with my kids!”
Yes, I truly prayed that prayer, almost shaking my fist at God. My marriage had crumbled, publicly and painfully. I was beginning a most unwelcome journey. The one thing I longed for more than anything—a marriage that goes the distance—had been ripped from me. I was left with nothing more than God…and my kids.
Adultery and divorce are absolutely awful, but I simply can’t imagine that anything can be more gut-wrenching and unnatural than losing a child. It doesn’t matter whether it is through death or miscarriage or rebellion. I simply don’t know that my heart could handle losing one of my three most precious gifts. My children were the very reason I forced myself to keep going in my darkest days. They needed me, and I certainly needed them. I simply don’t know where I would be without them.
And here I sit, watching my children grow into young adults. It won’t be long before they will be moving off to college, beginning their own lives without me. The days of late night conversations about life are fleeting. The frantic pace of basketball season will soon pass. The sounds (and smells) of a house full of teenage boys will soon be over. One day, the non-stop activity, ear-shattering sounds, and unimaginable grocery bill will be a distant memory. One day, even the smells of teenage boys and gym bags will be something I can only remember.
I must somehow find a way to simultaneously cling to these days while learning to let go of my children. I must somehow release my children fully into the hands of my heavenly Father and rest in his wisdom and sovereignty. I must somehow trust that he has great plans for my children just as he has for me.
Each stage of parenting has brought new challenges, new adventures. Each stage has somehow been more enjoyable than the last. Each stage has allowed me to see the faithfulness of God in the lives of my children, his tender mercies poured out upon them. Each stage has brought me closer to my children and to God.
I’m sure that this stage of letting go will bring its own joys and pleasures. I know that seeing the fruit of my labor—responsible, mature young adults making an impact on this world—has to be such a fulfilling stage of parenting! Someday I will have the joy of spoiling grandchildren in ways I wasn’t able to spoil my children. I long to see my kids walking in the light, serving their savior, well into adulthood. I long to hear them one day rise up and call me blessed.
I know that somehow I must release them from my control, loosen my grip on them. I must trust that I have done my job of teaching them to fly, that the lessons they have learned in these years have stuck. I must trust that they are learning to listen to the Father and walk in obedience without me.
I simply pray that my Father gives me grace and wisdom to let go of the most precious gifts ever entrusted to me.