Saturday, July 2, 2011

Parenting: Holding on and Letting go

If we parents do our jobs right, by the time children are 18 or so they want to fly the coop - live on their own, join the military or go to college. Children should not want to stay with us for the rest of their lives. They are gifts loaned to us for a short while. They were not created to be at our sides forever. By the time they finish high school they should feel so drawn to the beauty of the world and the horizon of the Infinite Presence that they want to taste life for themselves.

And yet....

They live in our hearts. Sometimes we just want to hold on, more than our children want us to. Both our boys happened to be away at the same time this week and while my husband and I loved being able to have date night every night, loved the quiet in the house and being able to have conversations without interruption, I sure was glad I had the dog to cuddle, walk and talk to!

The oldest one, nearly 15,  is still in Vermont. He just messaged me on facebook to say he couldn't talk cause they were heading over to Lake Champlain. He wasn't taking photos because the camera charger isn't working. I am going to have to hope other teens in Gioventu Studentesca, the youth group of the Communion and Liberation movement,  send him photos so I get a peek. One of the leaders emailed me to say he is a "very happy. " I am so moved by that.

Our friends' are having a similar struggle, balancing the desire to hold on while understanding their son's need for freedom. He is in Maine for a week with high school friends, visiting one of the boys' grandmothers. This is his first extended time away from home. He's 18, heading away to college in the fall and he has called them. Once. They've resisted the urge to check in on him. They miss him a lot.

Our little guy is home now. He spent four days at a 4H camp and tells us he wants to spend more time there this summer. That makes me both delighted and sad. I love his exuberance, but he is growing up so fast it feels. He's nearly 12.

He had a blast, surrounded by kids he never met; his counselors told me he is a "good egg."  He won an award for Asking the Most Unique Questions during his science workshops. He said he didn't miss us: just the dog.

Here is a photo I snapped on the drive home. Not the safest move: I stretched my arm into the back seat with the camera phone. But I captured the moment.


  1. My daughter is 7.5 and she expressed wanting to go fly and stay with Oma and Opa (grandparents) in CA (we are in TX). I was telling my mom this and she said maybe next summer she can fly out and pick her up to take her back for a few weeks.

    "Get Ready, Get Set, Don't Go" duet by Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus. My hubby always gets choked up by that song.

  2. Oh! I will have to check out that song. Thanks. When our oldest was 9 he flew to NC from NY to see his grandparents. It was a great experience for all....(The airlines have the whole unaccompanied minor thing and it is very safe)

  3. It makes me sad to even think about letting go of my oldest son. so I don't. But I do enjoy reading your experiences. It's interesting to see what life will be for us down the road. God Bless!

  4. Sarah: Thanks.

    In my mind, there is no need for you to have to imagine this time; just continue to savor the time you have now. Every stage is beautiful, truly.

    We all are so blessed to have children and to watch them unfold into the people God intended them to be.

    They will grow up soon enough and yet - each stage has felt like the "right" stage for them - not too fast, not too slow. Just keep snapping those photos, girl!

  5. We just moved our oldest into her new home this weekend and she started her new job today. So difficult for us all. Our nine year old cried as they parted. My oldest told her to think of it as leaving her for college and the youngest replied, "But it's not just college". She is so right.

  6. Awww...prayers to you all, Julie. Is your oldest nearby?

  7. Daughter #1 is 24, just graduated from local university, has no immediate plans to move anywhere, but we rarely see her -- Miss Social.
    Daughter #2 is 19, entering 2nd year of local college -- but boyfriend got accepted at Loyola University in Chicago and is bound there in August. She is indicating that she will follow next year. Yikes!
    It was our middle kid -- the only son -- who moved out at age 18 (he graduated at 17) in order to live closer to his girlfriend who had received a 4-year full scholarship. I thought I would never recover from the heartbreak of not having him mess up our house, bathroom, and his bedroom (no milk glasses and other scientific experiments!)
    He couldn't afford to keep up his cell phone -- in fact, he lost the one we gave him. So we literally didn't hear from him for months. To go without hearing his voice or to be able to summon him to the phone -- oh, wow, that was the worst. The Holidays came and went, no word. I actually took to watching or listening to his self-made music videos on YouTube -- just so I could feel close to him again.
    Eventually, his money situation changed, he started calling again, and three years out-of-the-house, we are very very close. Just like the old days. Thank goodness for text messages -- the cheap way to stay in touch.
    He and his girlfriend -- now fiancee, will marry next Summer before she heads off to med school.
    In retrospect, I am so PROUD of him.

  8. stefanie: Those are rough transitions, though. That would be so so so hard for me. I am glad you are back in touch!

    Perhaps, in retrospect, it is a good thing we have a dog in the house. (to cope with all the boys' comings and goings)

  9. @Julie: Will your nine-year-old visit big sister for weekends? That could be a great adventure.

  10. It is hard to let them go. My son is 23 and he just came home for a month. We just moved him out again and it was like he just left for the first time. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy to have may house back again and to put things in the fridge and have them there again when I go to have them for

  11. I can't completely relate to this because I don't have kids yet, but I definitely understand the sentiment. When I left home, I think my mom lost her sense of purpose for a little while. She was happy for me, I know, but I think not having me to talk to and take care of as she'd had for so many years was scary for her. And it was scary for me, too....leaving the nest is never easy. It's one of those bittersweet moments of life.

    Great post! And thanks so much for linking up with us at L&LB!