When Birds Fly

9:56 AMHeather

I craned my neck, searching for his familiar face among his peers. He'd been away for so long and it felt like it nearly killed me. I needed to see my son. I needed to know how things went while he was away and that he was well. 

It had been brutal to let him go. No one had warned me about that ache, deep in your heart, when your children begin to grow up and venture out on their own. No one had told me how to prepare for it or how to endure it. No one had great answers on how to withstand all this growing up.

At long last, there he was. He climbed in the van and I greeted him with a big smile and hug. I was dying to catch up.

"So, buddy. How was your first half-day of kindergarten?"

Oh, yes. I laugh at my younger self. Because you'd have thought my son had gone off to war. But those three hours of kindergarten, when the children were slowly introduced to school by beginning with only half days for the first week... well, they were brutal.


If I could talk to my younger self in that moment, this is what I would have said.

"Brace yourself, sister. This was nothing. Much bigger and much harder things are ahead. Because your goal is to work yourself out of a job here. To raise them to fly on their own. And it'll be the most conflicting feeling in the world-- to want to applaud them and yet refuse them those opportunities that will prove their ability to be independent."

Oh, yes. Growing up is hard. And it's not so easy on the kiddos either. I can no longer deny that I'm firmly in that season of cutting the apron strings, lengthening the leashes (so to speak--I don't use actual leashes for anyone concerned), and saying yes to things that mean they will either fly or fall. And it's no longer my job to protect them or keep them from those things. It's my job to trust their abilities and to be ready to catch them. Because they simply are at ages where it's time for them to be told yes. Yes, go venture out and see how you do. 

My oldest drives now. And every time he leaves our home, I try to emphatically express how much I love him. I swallow my worry and ask God to protect him. 

My next one went on a school trip last year. Without me. For several days. With friends and under the supervision of school staff. On a plane to states far, far away.

Next year, he will be going on an international school trip.

He's my wanderlust kid. I've known for years that he will be the one to say yes to big things. And I will have to entrust him to the Lord's protection and guidance. Even if adventure calls him to places far away that may not always seem safe.

Don't forget my baby. The one at the end of the line that allowed me to trick myself into believing that I still had a little one. The one who allowed my fool's paradise that while my boys were growing up, I still had this teeny tiny one and I was still a mom to a little. So it buffered my angst at the letting go on the other end of mothering.

But she's taller than me now. And tomorrow, she finishes elementary school.

So, here's my harsh reality. It's the end of an era. I've had a child in elementary school for 11 years. Tomorrow is my last day EVER as an elementary school mom.

And this summer, each of my children are taking a trip without me. My youngest goes with her grandparents for a week. And did I mention she starts middle school in the fall?  My middle is flying to see extended family in Canada. By himself. And, my oldest is flying internationally. Across the ocean. Alone. By his tiny baby self. Without me. To meet up with his grandparents for the trip of a lifetime. 

And I'm all-- YAY! What fun!  

And BOO! Is he ready? 

Or really, am I ready?

For all this letting go. 

I realized the biggest fear I have is that he might need me. The flight might be turbulent or there could be an issue with the tickets or airline. And he might still need his mom. And I won't be there.

A-hem. Pardon me, ma'am. Your control freaky mothering ways are showing. Because this is the kid you are sending off to college in 2 years. TWO years. To live all on his lonesome. Like a big boy. And he drives. Himself. Everywhere he goes, pretty much. SO, it's sorta TIME to let him fly. It's TIME to surrender him to the Lord and to trust that he can work out his own faith and trust in God's protection. Without you there. 

Dang it. Raising my kids to independence is so mean. Because it means they don't depend on me. And it means I'm not needed. At least not in the same way. And what if I'm obsolete to them? What if they all leave the nest and my birds fly and they never come back around anymore? 

(Have I mentioned my aptitude for pessimism?)

Oh, I don't know. You tell me if he's ready. This was our conversation yesterday:

Me: So, you sure you're ready for this? It's a big step. To fly to Europe all by your tiny baby self.

Him: Yep. I'm ready. 

Me: You sure? 

Him: Naw. Never mind. Let's cancel the trip. (He winks at me. That handsome boy winked at me)

Me: But what if there's turbulence and it's a rough flight and you need to hold my hand, but I'm not there?

Him: (without missing a beat) Then, I'll just find some random lady and hold her hand.

So, here's the happenings at my house. This summer is a milestone summer. My baby leaves elementary school and will begin middle school. My middle leaves middle school and starts high school. My oldest drives himself like a big boy. And each of my kids will be going places without me.  Well, they all end up with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins on their journeys. But one flies ACROSS THE OCEAN. 

Did I mention that? Across the ocean by himself. And one flies to Canada by himself. For three weeks away. 

And my heart is crying a little. And I'm like a crazy conflicted mess. Because I know they are all ready for these new seasons and it makes me so proud and happy and ready to throw confetti. But my need to be needed is crying a big fat river over it.

So I gotta get a grip. 

This is inevitable. It was sorta the plan all along. To raise my children to ages where they can begin to venture out of the nest and spread their wings and then be ready when it's time to really head out in the big old world by themselves and conquer it.

This is what God has called me to since day one. To remember they are his first. And he is always with them. And I must surrender them each to him. Every day. In every circumstance.  Because if he keeps the world spinning in orbit, then he can surely see my children through their steps of independence.

You know that old saying that faith isn't faith until it's all you got left?

Deep breaths. 

So I'm gearing myself. If you hear a loud wailing or even a muffled cry, it's just me. Having a fit and trying to get over myself. Rocking in fetal position in a corner, praying and praying. And learning some big hard amazing brutal lessons.

About letting the birds fly.

About sitting in my nest, ready for receive them back.

And letting them soar out there to explore and learn and grow and see that their God is always with them. And their mom is always ready to hold their hand if they need me.

Because I'm not just some random lady on a plane.

I'm their mom. And I will always be their mom. 

And they will always be my babies.

Even when they are grown up birds flying all over the world.

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