Parenting well means letting go

I can feel it, this thing.

It hangs in the air like a winter’s dingy fog, filling space and controlling the atmosphere of the soul. Foreboding. Present. A dread.

The gray slithers in, a quiet bully, trying to make me forget the sun is just beyond that somber wall. An inextinguishable match that sparks the fire of every day, always there whether or not we see it. There when it rains, there in the night. There. Always. New beginning. New mercy.

That’s how this feels. If you’ve walked in my shoes, you know.

Special Lasts have begun for my oldest and youngest. They’re racing toward ends that spill into beginnings.



My baby girl begins her last semester of college this week. Her baby brother begins his last semester of high school.

It is not the same thing to them it is to me. To them, graduation is a step through new doors where promise and adventure and life is waiting. Freedom, new and curious.

For me it is door to–

Wait a second…

For me, it’s a new door, too. Promise, adventure, life and freedom feather an empty nest.

New beginning. New mercy.

I remember not so long ago – with the intention of teaching responsibility and encouraging independence – requiring all three of my children to make and pack their own lunches. Was it middle school? Elementary?? On more chaotic mornings, of course I would help them out, but mostly they were on their own. Lunches might not have been as healthy had I been making them, but at least everything was eaten.

Except for that time we discovered a ham sandwich masquerading as a moldy, green science project in one of their book bags, eons after school was out for summer break. I figure one forgotten sandwich out of all the hundreds of school lunches we made wasn’t too bad a record.

Encouraging empty nest quote by Robin Dance


We moved summer before last and we dragged the baby with us just in time to start his junior year. Enormous guilt weighed us low, mean ol’ parents making him start over in a new place without the cushion of his big sis and brother. We imagined all the scenarios for his last two years of high school, envisioning the worst, hoping for the best and praying over all.

We had asked a lot of this kid–he attended four schools in three years, including six weeks in a German school, and now the move. He did so without complaint, adaptable and resilient, always landing on his feet. He was a marvel to me.

We were different after the move, with quick “yeses” replacing caution, flexing our former parenting modus operandi into an eagerness to break his fall…smooth the transition…make it easier. We would have given him the moon if he asked for it.

We hadn’t lost our collective minds as parents; our choices were calculated. He had earned trust. He would never ask for the moon.

But what was to happen, we never saw coming–

For him, it was a move, not for the better, but for the absolute best.

Thank you, Jesus, is never far from my lips.



Interesting (and sometimes amusing) how those things that once were so important to you lose their significance over time, over circumstance.

Though my husband started his new job in April, the boy and I moved literally the day before school started, clutching what we knew as “home” up to the last minute. He would finish out his last 360 days of high school in this new place, the place we moved to, not our home“Teaching responsibility and encouraging independence by requiring my children to make their own school lunches” went right out the window. Suddenly and surprisingly to me, I wanted to do everything I could for my youngest.

I desperately wanted to be his m o m m y.

The older two would tell me we were spoiling him. Of course, they’ve thought that for years, but give me a break, he is the baby of the family and parents naturally become more relaxed over time.

With few exceptions, I’ve made his lunches every day he needed one for two years. What was once a “disservice” to my children or plain old imposition is now my joy.



So, this week I can feel it, this thing. The first week of his last semester of high school, her last semester of college.

It’s looming on the horizon and I know a storm of emotion will gain strength between now and May.

Which is exactly how it should be. Two of the biggest and brightest days in life are high school and college graduation. Eagerness and excitement for children, pride and maybe relief for parents, but both spectacular and reason for celebration.

Farewells will follow – not one but many. The hardest good-byes are the best good-byes because they reveal intimacy, love and deep affection. 

Letting go of our children is the most sacrificial way we can love them. Make no mistake, to hold on too tight and too long clips their wings and makes it harder for them to fly. To soar.

Opening our hands palms to the sky releases them to be who they’re created to be, not necessarily who we want them to be.

Endings and good-byes are a dozen shades of gray. They’re not my favorite. But, like I said, on the other side of that somber wall is dazzling light bringing new beginnings, new mercy.

Spring will be here soon enough, but I’m grateful the sun has already been doing what she does best:

Shine away the gray.


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