As parents, we know that our main job is to raise our children to become responsible adults who will eventually step away from us and forge their own paths. We hope that when doing so, they will take with them all that we have tried to teach them. That’s the way it works. We do our best and then step aside.
So by the time our kids get ready to take the big steps away from us, you would think we would be kind of used to it. After all, the whole process starts very young, from the moment they let go of our fingers and take their first steps. We cheer, telling ourselves that it’s just a couple of steps, and we still have a lot of time. Before we know it, they take off running, and we have to chase after them. They make friends and take more steps away from us and toward their own lives. And then, suddenly, they’re old enough to drive, and we lose our grip on them just a little bit more. The older they get, the bigger the steps and the farther away they go.
Stepping into Adulthood
My first real gut punch over truly letting go came a few years ago when our oldest daughter, Maddie, moved out. She was more than ready to take off on her own, and her dad and I knew she would be fine. As much as I wanted her to stay, the move made sense. The apartment was closer to her school and work. It broke my heart, though, knowing that she was probably leaving for good.
It was OK, though, because I still had the other three at home with me, I told myself.
But then this year we have had to start the discussion about college with our son, Alex. I guess I just assumed all along that he would go to a college or university nearby. There are plenty of really good schools right here near home, so why wouldn’t he? Of course, the fact that I went to a college five minutes from my house may have clouded my thinking about staying home.
But he didn’t want to stay here. He said he definitely wanted to go away for college. And when he started naming the schools he was considering, my stomach sank. He wasn’t just talking about an hour or two away. He was talking more like a plane ride away.
I asked him why. He said that he felt that if he didn’t step out of his comfort zone now, he might not ever do it. His answer should have brought me joy, knowing that my husband, Mark, and I had raised him to be confident enough to challenge himself in such a way. For some reason, though, it didn’t. Because as much as I wanted him to and had raised him to go find his own path, I didn’t want him to leave.
Mother Mary, Help Me
As I have done more than once while raising my kids, I turned to Mary. Over the years, I have often wondered how Mary felt at the different stages of Jesus’ life. Was there an age she found particularly challenging? Did she struggle with watching him take each step away from her? Right now, I’m wondering how she felt when Jesus stepped away from her side and took off on his own ministry, followed his own path. Did she, too, know that he needed to go but desperately want him to stay?
And so, just as every parent must do, I will watch my kids grow, step away from my side, and spread their wings—with Mary by my side.