I sent my oldest son off to college for the first time, two weeks ago.
We’re a very close family and I wasn’t sure how I would handle letting go of a young man whom I’ve had the privilege of caring for since conception. We’ve experienced a lot these past 18 years, but not once have I ever regretted choosing him over my own sleep, my own comfort or even over my own career. I must admit, early on, it seemed like 18 years would be a long time to sacrifice, but before I knew it, he was walking out the door. I’ve watched him learn to crawl, stand, walk, run, jump … and now it’s time to watch him fly.
Where has the time gone?
All types of questions have crossed my mind. Will he be safe? Is he ready? What will life be like without his nuzzles, his hugs, his contagious laughter? He’s the type of kid that brightens up a room when he walks in. What will life be like without him near?
Surprisingly, I’ve done very well … up until now. But describing to you the way I feel about my son has caused a sudden explosion of emotions, which I embrace. Grieving is healthy and necessary. When this same child went thousands of miles away last summer for a full two months, I cried every single day he was gone. But this type of grief was not healthy because it was driven by fear and worry. So, knowing that this launch will most likely lead him to a new life, in a new country, indefinitely, I figured I had some work to do. I needed to take control of my thoughts and change my perspective.
Here are some choices I’ve made that have helped me tremendously, and hopefully they will sustain me as I move into this new season of life:
1. Choose Faith not Fear: For years of my life I operated in fear—fear of being hurt, fear of failure, and as weird as it sounds, even fear of success. As a mother, those fears transferred to my children as I feared for their safety, their happiness, and their victories. But what this paralyzing emotion will do to anyone who walks in its reality is steal the very hopes and dreams that we desire for ourselves and our children. So, when I think about my son being almost 4,000 miles away from home, I will choose to have faith in the God who created him and loves him even more than I do. I will also trust that God’s ways are higher than my ways and that His plans for my child are greater than I could ever imagine.
2. Choose to Launch and not to Lose: I keep reminding myself that I’m not losing my oldest son, I’m launching him … toward the fulfillment of his greatest dreams. Any time we pursue our dreams there will always be a risk and some type of loss incurred. But that temporary setback is no match for the utter joy that comes along with accomplishing the goal!
3. Choose to Let Go of Control: When our children are babies, we are responsible for just about everything they experience. But as they grow into adolescence and adulthood, if we’re practicing healthy parenting, we strategically begin to turn over some of that control to them. That way they can become responsible adults capable of making wise decisions without us. Sending our progenies off to college forces us to relinquish yet another level of control and for me it’s a wake up call to the fact that I have never really been in control in the first place. God has been. So after doing our best to raise responsible young people, I encourage us all to trust God with our children, knowing that our prayers for them are much more effective than our presence will ever be.
4. Choose to Keep it all in Perspective: As I’ve watched the latest news and read about 18 and 19 year olds dying while protecting their country, I’ve had to consider that I could actually be sending my son off to war. But I’m not. When I hear about moms losing their sons in senseless acts of violence or sudden deaths due to unknown causes, it reminds me to keep it all in perspective. My heart aches deeply for those parents who have experienced the loss of a child. Words cannot express the grief they endure and because of the pain they know, I believe they, too, would encourage us to have a healthy perspective and to celebrate the lives of our young people. So I will.
I hope these thoughts will be helpful to anyone who is launching a new college student into the world this fall. I would love to hear how some of you are managing your emotions. Or perhaps there are seasoned parents out there who have been through it all before. If this is you, what advice can you share with us? If you’d like to start a conversation, please post your comment below.
None of us have been perfect parents, nor have our students been perfect children, but there does exist a perfect God, who can make all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Parents, we have lift off!
Photo (Flickr CC) by Matthew Simantov