It all started last August—I genuinely thought I was ready…
But there I was at Florida’s Epcot Center watching a 3D Pixar Interactive experience about a momma bird and her baby discovering what she could do on her own. My eyes misted, and before I knew it I was sobbing and mumbling something about how my baby bird could fly on her own, and how everything would be okay. I was suddenly grateful for my darkened glasses.
Senior year of high school—I know it’s a cliche, but this thing really crept up on me. They tell you, “It goes by in the blink of an eye,” and then one day it does. One day the baby who clung to your leg the first day of preschool has rolled her shoulders back, pulled her head up high and is ready to walk out the door to a grand adventure that is beyond you.
I’ve now stared down the barrel of a graduation ceremony and made it through without blinking. Yes, I’ve known all along that day was coming. But, there wasn’t enough time. Where did all the minutes go? I just want a few more. Could we turn back the clock, just a little, back to when they weren’t talking about leaving home? Just to that time before the official enrollment package arrived in the mail for the college she chose 1,500 miles from home?
I am worried I didn’t do enough. Did I get her ready for adulthood? Did I teach her all the necessary skills to be on her own? Did I teach her any skills at all? Will she even remember to eat every day? For some parents I know, their children aren’t heading off to college—they’ll stay at home and work or join the military. Is that the right choice? Should we have helped them make a different choice?
Will my daughter be safe? The world is scary now—gunman assault our schools, natural disasters can’t be controlled, and craziness lurks behind every shadow. I’ve asked my daughter to let me know when she arrives at locations safely. But what will I do when I can’t make her stay in touch? How will I trust she that she’s okay? Would it be acceptable to just sleep under her bed for the first few weeks of school? Please be patient with me; I know what I am supposed to do, but I just can’t go there yet. I know I should just let her fly, like the little bird in that Pixar movie. But I’m still hanging on.
The tears have swept over me more than I care to admit this year. First it came in waves of grief. I know she’s not dying, but this part of my parenting journey is over. It will shift now. She’ll always be my child, but she’s not a child anymore. I’m a little scared she’ll head off to college and join a some kind of cult, or drop off the deep end, or (even worse) walk away from her faith. What if she figures out I did everything wrong and resents me for it? Now she’s learning what it means to be a grown-up. While I haven’t been able to fix her problems for a long time now, at least she needed me in the middle of the night when she woke up sick.
My graduation journey has been marked by “lasts.” It was the last time she packed a lunch for school in my home. The last awards ceremony of her high school career. The last solo performance, last exam, and last lunch break with her friend group. She was nervous, but oh-so-ready to walk across that stage and receive her diploma.
And you, my daughter’s youth ministry leader, have been worrying about how to celebrate my precious senior. You’ve had Bible studies and ceremonies, and given out your senior gifts. You may also have complained for the last time that I didn’t read your email this week :).
Most of us parents will say the right thing and tell you we’re glad it’s over. We might make an awkward joke about how it’s about time for them to be done with high school. Those of us who don’t want others to roll their eyes at our emotions will say something profound like: “Oh, the places they’ll go!” None of us wants to admit just how hard this is.
- I’m wondering if you could take a moment and tell me that it’s going to be okay?
- Can you tell me something you love about my child?
- Can you let me know something, anything, I did well in this parenting thing? I have been at it for 18 years, and never quite perfected it, and now it’s all changing again.
I’m so proud of my child; even if she didn’t do anything miraculous (so far), she’s mine. I screamed at the top of my lungs when she walked across that stage. I posted way too many pictures on social media. I pretended not to brag, but still let you know that my kid is the greatest. Sometimes I wonder if that’s true in spite of me, but it doesn’t really matter. She’s amazing. Indulge me in this myth for just a second.
Please remind me that it’s going to be alright. Did I say that enough? The world is frightening, but Jesus is bigger than all of that. My child is going to be an outstanding adult—can you remind me of that?
Summer is here now, and I’m trying to suck every last moment out of it with my girl. For those of us who will have kids staying local, can you help us figure out how to help them be grown-ups? For those of us who will pack cars to the hilt and drive them 1,500 miles from home, can you show up to see us off? Can you whisper in our ears one last time that it will be okay, and this is a good thing, and remind us that the most significant adventure for our child has just begun? We are pretending to be strong. We are not. We need you, too.
Oh, and by the way, in case we forgot to say it—thank you. Thank you for taking time for our kids, and seeing them for who they’re called to be when they can’t. Thank you for believing in our kids when we were ready to throw them through a wall. Thank you for all of those long days and hours you’ve invested in our kids. Just remember, we still need you for just a little longer. Our kids are doing okay, it’s us parents that need you to hold our hand…