“Do you want to do drop-off today?” I glanced at my daughter’s face in the rear-view mirror. She scrunched her freckled nose, leaned back into her car seat and cracked a sly smile.
“Sure. I’m strong enough now.”
“Really?” My eyebrows shot up.
“Yep. I can do it.”
“Okay.” I veered to the school carpool line and shifted into park. My daughter unbuckled her seatbelt and stood up to go. I twisted toward the back seat, doubting her confidence.
Most days, I walk her into the building. She complains the door is too heavy; the middle school kids are too tall and intimidating; she wants one final kiss on the hand, one last hug before the bell rings. She craves my presence. My protection.
But this day, she chose courage.
“Do you have your backpack?”
“If nobody holds the door open for you, I’ll park the van in the parking lot and run to help. Okay?”
“Okay, Mom. Bye.”
“Wait—give me a kiss!” I squeezed her shoulders and planted a peck on her cheek. “I love you. Have a great day at school.”
“I will, Mom. Bye!”
My eyes followed as she ran to the double glass doors, paused for just a second to wave back at me, then grabbed the handle and yanked hard, disappearing inside the building for the best hours of her day.
And my heart sank to my stomach.
Why doesn’t it get any easier? This wasn’t the first day of school, for crying out loud. It was one of the last. Summer break begins next week. And still, after nearly an entire academic year, I struggle to relinquish my precious girl to teachers and hot lunch and recess chatter.
I want to be with her. To know she’s happy and safe and well cared for. But she blossomed this year into a confident schoolgirl who jumps rope and reads chapter books and can suddenly open the door just fine on her own, thankyouverymuch.
So it’s time for me to start letting go.
Because the less she leans on me, the more she’ll need to lean on God.
And that is the ultimate goal of my parenting.
“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe,” (Proverbs 28:26).
I’m not raising my kids to be independent. Quite the opposite, I want them to be increasingly dependent—on God. Don’t you? By giving our children room to grow and stumble, we set the example that Mom depends on God first—to take care of them.
It’s not easy.
In the beginning of the school year, my daughter cried every day at lunch for two weeks because she missed me. Worse, she didn’t tell me about it, thinking I’d be disappointed in her. When a teacher finally clued me in, my aching mommy heart wanted to yank my baby out of school and spend September indulging her with chocolate ice cream cones in the safety of our fenced back yard.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I prayed. I prayed for her courage. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for God to wrap his arms around her when I could not.
Then on the drive to school one day in early fall, my daughter sang her favorite Sunday school song. “Be strong! Joshua 1:9! Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“Sweetheart, that’s it!” I shouted from the driver’s seat. “You can sing that song to yourself when you’re walking to lunch. For the Lord your God is with you—even in the cafeteria!”
“Yeah!” Her eyes grew wide and she smiled. That afternoon, when she boarded our van at pick-up time, my soul rejoiced to hear these beautiful words: “It worked, Mom! I didn’t cry! God helped me be brave!”
And now here she is, nine months later, shrugging off her ol’ lady because she can do this kindergarten thing just fine. And I’m grateful.
Not because she doesn’t need me.
But because she’s learning where her real strength lies.