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Monday, May 21, 2007

Letting Go

Remember in Proverbs 30: 19 that poetic verse about seemingly commonplace moments that are actually marvels beyond comprehension? They include: “the way of an eagle in the sky, a snake on a rock, a ship on the sea, and the way of man with a maiden.”

Well, I’m adding one more to the list of bafflers: the way of a mother planning her child’s graduation open house.

You've got to see (or be) a mom in this mode to believe it. One minute she can be all business, organizing food lists, decorations, music ... and then become an emotional blubbering mess in the blink of an eye.

“I can’t believe my baby is all grown up!” becomes the tag line in any conversation concerning that child. For instance, Mom could be talking with the manager of the dental office who called to remind her of the child's appointment. Before she hangs up, she will somehow work in the refrain, "Yes, he'll have to switch from the pediatric dentist to our dentist because he's graduating this month, you know. I just can't believe he's all grown up!"

In Indiana, a mom of a high school senior in the month of May is a force to be reckoned with—or better yet, to be avoided completely! There’s a tradition here of having an open house around graduation time that resembles a scaled-down wedding reception. The pressure and stress of this event can be overwhelming if you're not a natural “entertainer” or hostess.

And this is where I am personally this week. My son is graduating high school. By the time you read this, the open house will have happened yesterday afternoon, and I am anticipating a bit of melancholic let-down Monday morning.

It would be easy to poke fun at the moms who build “shrines” for their kids at this milestone, but I’ll resist, because I “get it.” I think there is an underlying, unstated reason behind the frenzy that deserves some compassion.

At the heart of this circus is a mother’s process of letting go, saying goodbye, to her child. Many moms begin grieving at the beginning of the senior year, and the last month is highly emotional. In spite of a different kind of parenting that lies ahead, moms start to feel that there’s nothing productive left to do, and so they create something to do for that child. It’s like staging one last hurrah to say, “I love you. I’m proud of you—and does this make up for not doing the fundraiser in elementary school, the track meet I missed in junior high and the time I called you ‘honey’ in front of your coach?”

It’s all about that deep, unconditional, heart-tourniquet kind of love that looks a little desperate during this transition. What a paradox—a mom’s goal is to guide her dependent child to independence, and yet there is an inescapable desire to hold on to him. It’s baffling—beyond comprehension—the bittersweet way of a mother with her child who’s on the threshold of independence.

My son was dedicated at 3 months old. We were determined to give him the most solid spiritual background we could so that when he reached this point in life, he could take the next steps toward an ever-deepening relationship with Christ.

In many ways, it’s time to let him go now—let him make many new decisions that I may or may not agree with. That is a little scary.

So today, I’m clinging to scripture from comfort. I have always cherished Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Even though Mary held the Savior of the world who would inevitably become famous in some way, in that moment, he was primarily "her" son. She knew she would have to let him carve his own way once it was the proper time, but for now she could treasure the time with him and treasure the potential he embodied. I guess the sweetness of that verse moves me, but also just knowing this ambivalence I feel, pride mixed with a little grieving, is a normal part of motherhood that crosses time and culture.

And John 14:1, Jesus’ comforting assurance, though so familiar, is so meaningful: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

Finally, John 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”

Thank you, Lord, for making me the mother of my son. May he become all that you destined him to be with a heart that is perpetually drawn to you. Give me the grace to move into this next phase of parenting and to trust you now as I did the day he was born. Your faithfulness lasts through all generations, and I am blessed with the privilege of trusting you with my precious son.

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Blogger Susanne said...

What a lovely, moving post Linda! I can just imagine the turmoil of emotions. I'll be facing this next year. Well, maybe not an open house but all the other stuff with letting a graduating child move into thier nexpt phase.

May 21, 2007 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Sweet blessings to you, and your son always.

May 21, 2007 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Oh, Linda...beautifully written.
I can so understand- even though I haven't gotten to this point with my kids yet- how you must be feeling. I don't totally comprehend it yet, but I can use my imagination and understand how I might feel when my girls get there. Letting go will be so hard!
We think raising kids is challenging...but I think the spiritual challenge is completely entrusting them to God as they get ready to leave the nest.

May 21, 2007 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Connie Barris said...

I remember several years ago when my daughter graduated from High School.. I cried for weeks before and weeks after...
Everything I saw made me think of her.. and I cried...

Sorry, but now after two years of college.. I ask her "When are you going back"...

I so love her but God has so prepared me for this "cutting of the cord"..

but I don't want to spoil this beautiful post.. and it is...

and this time is to be cherished...

really, I do love my babies so much and God has been so good, hasn't He?!

Blessings girl....

May 21, 2007 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Oh, Linda, what a beautiful post. You said it all. Blessings to you in this new phase of parenting.

May 21, 2007 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

We have attended several open houses this year with more to come. You have described them well.

Beautiful post! It is such a joyful time mixed with so many other emotions of a season ending in the lives of our children.

May 21, 2007 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger Lady T said...

From your words, i believe you have done an excellent job in raising him. you have trained him up in His Word. your son will not stray....if he appears to, it wont be for long.....for his upbringing will tug at his heart...and he knows where his ultimate strength lies.

Not to mention he has a praying mother! *wink*

Stay Blessed!

May 22, 2007 at 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Lynn Donovan said...


Spoken right from the heart of a Mom who loves her son and her God.

Thank you for sharing a deep part of yourself with me. I am right there with you experiencing the day with you. Hope it was wonderful.

May 22, 2007 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

I can only imagine the difficult time the Father had letting His son go "out into the world." Knowing all He would face, it must have brought unbearable sorrow.

My oldest is in grade 10, and I feel this creeping up on us now. I'm so glad that my other three are still so little. Whew!

May 22, 2007 at 6:07 PM  
Blogger The Preacher's Wife said...

Wow...I know this is coming for me so quickly and I also know I am not ready!!

Hope your 'open house' was all you dreamed it to be...I'm sure it was wonderful after seeing the pics from that big shindig at your church ! :))


May 24, 2007 at 11:11 PM  
Anonymous Barbara H. said...

"What a paradox—a mom’s goal is to guide her dependent child to independence, and yet there is an inescapable desire to hold on to him."

Amen. Things change when they get into college and then again when they leave the nest for good. The closer they get to those times (I have one in college, one graduated, and one in jr. high), the more I want to dig my heels in and hang on. I know I can't, and one part of me really doesn't want them still living at home when they're thirty...but I just can't imagine life without them around in the way they are now. I know the Lord will give grace when the time comes, and I am looking forward to daughters-in-law and grandchildren...but I will miss this time with them just as I miss them as toddlers some days.

May 25, 2007 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger eph2810 said...

I remember years ago when we celebrated our son's graduation from High School. Last year, he graduated from college and he still looking for the perfect fit. I know it is hard to let go of our kids, but the only thing we can do is to constantly encourage them...

Thank you for sharing from your heart, Linda.

Blessings to you and yours.

May 26, 2007 at 5:16 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

Excellent advice and encouragement here, Linda. Just wait until they get married and have children of their own. I believe I have learned more about grace in this season of motherhood than I ever learned when I was changing diapers (though I'm back to changing diapers now with grandsons), going to Little League, or even handing over the car keys! I'm pondering it all! =)

May 29, 2007 at 10:26 AM  

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