Part of the journey on the other side of the hill involves letting children go. It’s easy to forget that their independence was the goal all along. This can be both heart wrenching and freeing, at the same time. My oldest has been married and on her own for nearly two years. My second in line is now testing the waters, finding her footing and getting ready to launch into her own big world.
I just bid farewell, for the summer, to my younger daughter. This is my middle child, with all the traits known to that position in birth order. She wants to be considered as independent as her older sister, yet wants to be taken care of as much as her younger brother. She can breeze through a room, turn it upside down, then waltz out as if nothing has happened. Her ideas are grandiose but not supported by planning or follow through. She has an oppositional streak, making choices that directly defy my wishes. No gift is special enough, no time is long enough, and no amount of attention is deep enough for this insatiable human being. She is a child that humbles me and makes me doubt my abilities as a mother.
This “child” is my 19 year old college student who has yet to leave our nest. She attends a local college full time, works half time, attends church, has a great group of friends and runs marathons with her sister. On the surface she is making good choices, functioning successfully, and doing what every parent wants their young adult to do. Why then is she so difficult in my home? Why must we constantly butt heads over every issue that arises?
When my daughter started researching summer long missions, I had a variety of thoughts. Would she be able to plan long term enough to apply, fund raise, pack for and attend a summer long mission? Could this person who likes to be taken care of serve others for two months? How quiet would my house be for a whole summer? If her plans were successful, this would be her fledgling experiment with independence, the first time she’s spread her wings so far.
Her coming of age parallels my own. She is nearing official adulthood and I am coasting down the hill to a time when I’ll be a “retiree” and an “empty-nester.” Her summer away is our trial run at the second vacancy in my home. Though each departure brings an ache to the heart, each vacancy in my home represents a more simplified life and the freedom for this mother to remember who she is.
After months of planning, praying, coordinating, the day for her to leave for the mission site arrived. In the hours leading up to her departure, I waited for her nervousness to turn to irritation with me as it usually does. Instead, she grew more and more calm during the 24 hours before we left. In place of the frazzled, irrational girl that I’ve always had to usher through new beginnings, stood a serene, confident young woman. Where did she come from? She was focused and at peace. Her voice, instead of shrill and frantic, was sure and quiet. I’ve never met this young woman before, but I liked her and felt an instant bond with her. And as we prayed together for a summer of glory, growth and safety, I felt the long buried cord between us tugging our hearts together. I felt a hope that God has my little bird in the palm of His hand and that, perhaps, I have done something right as her mother.