I joined him on the patio to watch the sun rise over the lake. My husband smiled and lifted his coffee mug. This was the final morning of our family vacation to the Wisconsin northwoods, and I wanted to inhale the scenery, the sounds, the unblemished air.
I wanted it to last. To squeeze shut my eyes and press my hands over my ears and pretend like nothing was waiting for me at home. After nearly a week of family fun and freedom, I should’ve been a noodle of relaxation. But instead the knot in my chest gripped tighter.
All summer long I ignored it. From the last day of preschool through the Fourth of July until the flip of the calendar to August, I managed not to panic.
Not when the store shelves sprouted piles of notebooks and markers and Elmer’s glue on sale.
Not when we shopped for gym shoes and lunch bags.
Not when the September hot lunch schedule showed up in my inbox.
Not until last week, when my buffer slid away. We purposely planned our vacation toward the end of the summer, one last hurrah before school takes over our energy. Up until last week I could safely say summer was not winding down because we had not yet gone on vacation.
But now? Vacation is done. And I’m counting days to the biggest transition of my parenting career so far—when the stay-at-home mom releases her day job to the school system.
My baby is ready to fly.
But I’m not ready to let go.
All week in the northwoods, I fought a lump in my throat. Tears sprang at random times, taunting and embarrassing me. I’ve always been a sappy mom. But even I was surprised at my guerilla emotions.
In the car, I’d look back to see my five-year-old with earphones hanging from her ears, eyes glued to the DVD player, a silly paper hat of horns fastened around her head—memorabilia from Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty. Half of me laughed, while the other half let tears spill down my cheeks.
At the horse ranch, she nestled in a saddle with me through the 45-minute trail ride, chattering nonstop about unicorns and dinosaurs and donuts and God. I soaked up her voice, giggled, kissed the top of her head and felt the saline sting my eyes.
At restaurants, mini-golf, downtown shops, the pool—everywhere we went, I watched my younger daughter more intently, with my heart undistracted, wide open, vulnerable, as if I could memorize her and capture these moments untouched by the outside world, the world that tells me she is growing up.
She needs to grow.
God designed it that way.
And I cannot hamper what he has begun.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6, NLT).
I take that verse as a promise not just for my daughter but for me, too. What God started five years ago when my baby was born—even before that, three years earlier when her big sister changed my entire life as I knew it—he will finish in his perfect time. Which means although my girls no longer need me to wipe bottoms and spread peanut butter between the hours of 8 and 3, my work is far from done. I’m the mom, the nurturer, the original teacher and principal and lunch lady combined. It’s a big job that doesn’t end when the academic year begins. In fact I hear it gets tougher toward middle school, Lord help us all.
I’ve asked myself if I’ve been a good enough mom during the years my girls were all mine. If I’ve loved them the way God loves them, and valued them as his children first, not mine. I’ve even wondered how I’ll justify my time at home while the girls are in school, but those questions dissolve quickly when I think about this blog and my upcoming book and all the work I’ll finally be able to focus on without babysitters or interruptions or mom guilt. There are some perks to school.
The bigger question, though, is this. Do I trust God?
Do I trust him to watch over my children, to encourage them when I’m not there, to grow and challenge them, and to draw me closer to him in the process? Because letting go of our kids is not really an issue of courage or safety. It’s a matter of trust. Do I believe God when he says he will continue the good work he began the day I first held those beautiful tiny bodies in my arms and looked upon their perfect miracle faces, the very image of God himself?
Let’s trust him together. I will enter this school year leaning on God’s promises, and you can do the same, amen? Then we can lean on each other as well, knowing God is in the center. Whether you’re a mom of school-age kids or stuck in the nighttime feeding stage, whether you home school or virtual school or send your kids off to school like me, no matter if your precious ones are starting preschool or kindergarten or high school or college, we all have one thing in common.
God loves our children more than we do.
And that’s exactly why they have to fly.