Our entire journey as parents is about letting go and giving our kids more and more freedom. It starts with a little letting go at a time, giving our kids some slack in the rope. Then we proceed to bigger lengths of rope and eventually we let go of the rope completely, giving our kids fully to God. Letting go starts with removing the bottle, then the crib, then the security blanket or teddy bear. We drop our kids off for their first day of school, help them with the transition from grade school to middle school then to high school. Now we get into more serious lengths of rope as we watch them drive for the first time, go on their first date, stay out late for prom. Before you know it, they are off to college or into the work force and on their way to marriage, the rope is pretty much gone at this point and they are flying free on their own. Along the way, I always wanted to grab the rope and say, “wait, it’s too steep and dangerous out there, life is so much better right here beside your Mom and Dad.” But I was wise enough to know that each of my kids needed to venture and learn what can only be learned through their own trials and errors. My youngest just got her driver’s license this morning. I’ve been here before, so I was cool as a cucumber. Maybe too relaxed. The first time I took her out driving after she got her permit, I fell asleep in the passenger seat!
Train up a child in the ways he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it Proverbs 22:6
I remember when my son headed off to college and how tough that was on my wife. It turns out he actually liked talking with his family because he called us every night…for the first semester. The calls dwindled from there as he gained more independence and become increasingly more comfortable on his own. It was a bit easier two years later when my daughter headed off to college, not just because she was the second, but because I had prepared her to be on her own, “Keep that new shotgun clean and loaded honey, and practice the self-defense moves I taught you.” It may actually be the hardest when my youngest daughter leaves in a couple years. In between all the parties my wife and I have planned, the house will be a lot quieter and the fridge less full.
Discipline your children, and they will give you peace: they will bring you the delights you desire. Proverbs 29:17
Just last weekend, we had another major letting go experience as we drove our oldest daughter to Denver International Airport, sending her off for her study abroad in Spain. I wasn’t sure if there was enough rope to reach Spain from Colorado! This was a big deal, but yet, my 19 year old daughter seemed confident and excited. She was clearly becoming her own person. Just the night before, I watched her pack her essentials, which included her personal bible. I decided this was a good moment to impart some fatherly wisdom, “There are a couple good passages in there honey, the ones about staying pure and avoiding alcohol, read those often.” Through FaceTime we have kept in touch with her this first week and have even shared in a small part of her experience. It’s strange to think that she is living with a host family who are complete strangers, from another culture, and who speak a different language. Yet, she appears to be thriving even though she is far away from home.
Children are a heritage from the Lord… Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full. Psalm 127: 3-5
The transition from having young, fully dependent children to having grown independent adult children seems rapid and dramatic. Our kids demand more and more rope until they are fully ready to fly on their own, no rope required. Through this journey, we are growing too, learning to trust God with our most precious possessions. In fact, we are learning that they are not our possessions at all. Rather, they were on loan to us to help us grow in our own faith and understanding of God’s love. The good news is that we will be better prepared when the grandkids come along. But for now, I’m not thinking about grandkids, I’m just enjoying letting go and watching my kids begin their own journey. Oh, and my oldest, he turns 21 this month. I plan to take him out on his birthday and let him buy me a beer!
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:13-14