Our oldest graduates high school tonight.  Every single cliche that was ever written about time flying has come painfully home to roost.  In those hard early years, when it felt like eternity just to get through a day, well-meaning older people would say “Enjoy it – it goes so fast” and I would nod and think Yeah, right.

Yeah, right.

One day you are bleary-eyed with sleep deprivation because they are newborns and the next because they are teenagers. And then they have the audacity TO GO TO COLLEGE!  How intensely ungrateful of them to grow up and leave.

The question I keep asking myself is how did we get here?

It’s the way of things.  When he was little, I would hold him and think I never want this to change and then it would and it was better.  Every phase seemed more interesting and fun, and I have to cling to that now – I need to hold tight to my past experience and trust it to be true for the future.  The best is yet to come.

Ah.  But isn’t that what God tells us over and over and over?  How am I so slow on the uptake?

There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18

I know the plans I have for you … plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. I Corinthians 2:9

The grand narrative of scripture is so often about the next best thing.  Promises that what will come is better than what is now.  Sometimes the now is good, sometimes not, but either way better is commencing.

Merriam-Webster defines commencement as “a time when something begins.”

So why does it feel so much like an ending in my heart? I’ve spent the past few weeks reveling in the endings.  So many finals.  His final juggling show.  His final high school choir concert.  His final Boy Scout meeting.

While he’s been taking finals at school, I’ve been taking the finals of his childhood.

I am one of those lucky parents whose child is toward the young end of his particular grade.  As a late May baby, my boy just achieved adulthood legally.  So ALL of it culminates at once.

He commences. Something new is beginning.

In this time of lasts, there are also so many firsts.  The first time he signs his own waiver (that would be so he can ride a mechanical bull at the all-night graduation celebration – say, what? I am not sure he is qualified to make that decision! Oh wait.  Yes he is.) His first solo doctor’s appointment.  “Do you want me to go with you?”  “Yeah. But just sit out here in the waiting room.” Talk about feeling irrelevant.  Although it was kind of nice that HE had to fill out the paperwork!

He and his friends joked about buying cigarettes on their birthdays just because they could, not because they have any interest in smoking. (They didn’t do it.  Whew.)

I need to commence, too.  Not only do I need to take my hands off the wheel, but I should probably exit the vehicle.  On the other hand, I’m helping pay for college, so maybe I’ll just climb into the back seat.  This metaphor isn’t playing out quite how I’d like.  No one likes a back seat driver.

How do I commence this new phase of my life?  Again with the cliches – If you love something set it free…   Whatever.  But it is kind of fun to watch them fly.  Sometimes.

It just feels weird.  Conflicted.  Like I don’t know what to feel.  He’s ready.  I’m sort of ready.

There are things I keep reflecting on – have I said everything I should have? (Probably not.)  Have I said things I shouldn’t have?  (Yes. Uff da, yes – not so proud of those).

For the most part we’ve done it right.  We’ve taught him what is important to us, we’ve modeled the way we’d like to see him live. We’ve also screwed up, but we are big believers in repentance and forgiveness around this house, and so we’ve apologized. A lot.  Mostly we’ve loved him.

SO I keep reminding myself that this is not an end.  This is a beginning of an exciting and fun new phase.  Just like when he first smiled, or crawled, or began kindergarten was more fun and exciting than the previous stage. He is still my son. I will still have a presence in his life.  I will probably not hold my tongue when I should.  I will keep apologizing. I will keep forgiving and being forgiven.

He will take on the world. And with a lot of prayer and God willing, do a great job of it. He is ready to commence.



Letting them spread their wings and fly

letting them spreadI just returned from putting the middle one on an airplane. She is traveling alone for THE VERY FIRST TIME! which strikes a chord in my bosom consisting of maternal pride, vague sorrow, and sheer terror.  She is completely ready for this, but I’m not sure I am! How did we get to the point where I could put my child on a plane and have complete confidence in her ability to navigate an unknown airport in another state on the other end?  Wasn’t it just yesterday I was wrestling her into her car seat, striving to fasten the straps while she arched her back?  Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts and return your trays to their upright position…

I am so excited for her to take this trip.  I couldn’t wait for her to experience the rush of the airport, rife with possibilities.  I love traveling and I love the airport.  I pine for the days before terrorists ruined everything; the days when you could walk practically onto the plane (okay, the gate) with your people and watch it take off.  I loved that you could meet dear ones as they stepped off the plane, wearing crazy hats and playing kazoos.  The fact that they would walk right by as if they had never seen you before was immaterial.

Here is an awesome secret! (Most of you probably already knew this, but it was news to me!) If you have an unaccompanied minor traveling THEY LET YOU STILL DO IT!  All I had to do was ask for a gate pass, and with no argument whatsoever I was in.  It was just like the good old days.  Except I had to take off my shoes, and stand in a cone of silence while it scanned me for unwanted objects. And then show the TSA agent my ankle??!!!  Did it look somehow suspicious? If they are looking for unwanted objects they could have the jiggle in my thighs.  I certainly don’t want that, but I guess it isn’t really a foreign object.

The people watching. The moving sidewalks.  The information boards clicking off arrivals and departures.  I felt like a junkie that had fallen off the wagon.

Clearly, we do not travel by plane very often.  My dad did, and I know he grew to despise it.  But when it is a rare treat, it is a thrill to be there with all those anonymous people going to mysterious places.  Or Omaha.  It truly doesn’t matter, it’s the act of GOING that is magical.

However.  When you are taking a tall beautiful girl, and letting her go, ALL ALONE, it is a slightly different tale.  Okay, she is only going for a week, she is meeting good friends on the other end and spending a blissful week at the beach and Disney.  It’s not like I’m shipping her off to China for two years to perform hard labor. It just feels like it.  And I challenge any mother out there to look me deep in the eyes and say they would feel differently.  Deep in their souls.

But it is time.  She needs to take this next step on that road to independence.  I need her to take it.  It is part of my job to suck it up and let her go.  I did stand at the gate until the plane pulled away.  I could just see the pilots through the windows, and I Spock-like tried to brain-meld them to BE CAREFUL.  PAY ATTENTION.  GET THAT BIRD UP AND DOWN SAFELY.  Like that’s not their job.  Like there weren’t a bunch of other people important to someone on that plane.  But MY important person is! As I used to say to my sister-in-law when she would travel long distances with my nieces and nephew Drive carefully.  Precious cargo aboard!

I’m not one of those clingy moms who can’t let their kids go.  Really I’m not.  My dirty little secret is that sometimes I LIKE to see them go. But I still feel oddly bereft.  She will now have stories to tell us that we are not a part of. Stories that will be uniquely hers to tell. She is going to gain a self-confidence she never could at home.  An opportunity to prove to herself what she is capable of. Remember the first time I flew alone?

I said to Sam last night, I don’t want to go with her (well, maybe a little – not so much about her as my own wanderlust), but I wish I could creep on her just a little bit.  Peek around corners and watch as she sees new things, tastes new foods, explores new vistas. Thank heaven above for social media that will allow me to do just that, even if she has carefully curated what I see.

This is just the beginning of the end.  It’s not really even that – I’m being a wee bit melodramatic. We send one off to college next year, which I am already pre-grieving.  What a good use of my time that is! But this is what we had children for in the first place.  To grow up, and fly the nest, and be productive adults that please God.  That, and to take care of us in our old age. They are going to love that! Oh, and give us grand-babies.  No pressure.  Truly.

So my beautiful girl, fly!  Enjoy the journey.  We will be here in the nest when you come back, ready to listen to all your stories.  And just so you know, I stood looking out the window at your plane until you were in the air.