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As parents, we all have a unique path to travel.
Although our journeys vary greatly, at the end we all find ourselves at the same destination—the place where our children will leave home and launch into the world on their own. As we approach this take-off zone, we begin to ask ourselves: “Have I done my best to prepare them for this day?”
Not long after our first child is born, we realize all of the advice we had for others before this day is now null and void. We come to the sobering conclusion that no one is adequately prepared for the task of being a parent and raising a child to be a functioning and responsible member of society. Suddenly, all of our self-perceived intellect has vanished and we are reduced once again to mere mortals, where the deepest answer we can muster to the questions of life and parenting is, “I don’t know!” (Which will also become the adopted response of our children to every question we ask them for the next 20 years or so.)
Most of us complicate the matter even more by adding multiple members into the equation. Once we thought we had child number one figured out, child number two turns out to be from another planet. We call the hospital and demand a DNA test to confirm this child was not switched when we weren’t paying attention—fully convinced we couldn’t have created and birthed such an alien. By the time numbers three and four come along, we no longer care.
As the years progress, we somehow seem to survive the various stages of life and start to enjoy the journey—being thankful there was no pat answer, only life to experience together. One day we look at our children and—as if by miraculous intervention—realize we all have survived the journey, and they are ready to embark into the world on their own…even the alien.
As they head out to pursue their education, careers and dreams in life, we look back, remembering nothing but the joy they have been in our lives. All of the trials and dysfunction that has been uniquely our own, seem to mean nothing now and worth doing all over again. Then we pause, have a cup of coffee, and wait for grandchildren (and enjoy watching as our children become parents!).
It’s always hard to let them go, but they must become who they’re meant to be. We can hold them in our hearts and in our prayers, but we have to set them free. We’ve given all we have to them. Send them off with an “I love you”…until they find their way home again.
Don Pritchard is the pastor at Solid Rock Faith Center in Diamond Springs.