Watching our daughters grow from infancy into their adult years has been an interesting adventure for me. It is impossible to forget the moment our oldest took flight with wings spread wide. I had a very difficult time of letting go and allowing my faith and all that we taught her to guide her.
As she stepped upon a plane for the very first time in her mid-teens heading towards missions, my emotions were a mixture of excitement and fear. I was confident that she was going to do fine, that God would guide her, but I was feeling as though there was a part of me being severed away. It wasn’t as if she was heading off to camp an hour away for one or two weeks, but rather going on a plane across the country to California. Did I prepare her sufficiently?
She had challenges and occasionally called, yet I had to allow her to depend on other adults to guide her through the experience. It was not what I would call an easy task to refrain from reeling the umbilical cord back home. Fortunately, her challenges became opportunities and lessons that brought home a more confident young woman with a stronger passion for people.
If I had thought California was far away, little did I realize how far Connecticut would seem from our NH home as she headed off to the University of New Haven. If I thought a month away on missions during the summer was difficult, I quickly discovered that her being away in another world with a varying amount of influences would prove to be more of a challenge. Of course she had some challenges, but the challenges that I am referring to are the ones I faced as a mom.
Where once we had daily contact with our daughter, despite email and the investment of a cell phone, I discovered that this was no longer her priority or even a necessity. The more she poured herself into her studies, developing some amazing friendships, and finding her true identity, the less she needed me and the less connected I felt. I would call and it would be days before she would return the call. If she called with a need to cry and release some tension, I needed to learn that in her mind this would not require a follow-up call to share that things were better. If she needed us, she would call.
Unfortunately I was at a loss and missing that connection that we had prior to her leaving. I do think that homeschooling her through the completion of high school might have created a stronger bond for myself than thought possible, but I also knew that she left home with a strong educational and moral background. I needed to trust that what she learned and valued would remain with her. So, I stepped back and poured my energy into my husband, my job and homeschooling our other two daughters.
As our oldest took off to college, our second daughter decided to venture into missions as well while also deciding on her own college direction. As with our oldest, I was excited for her, yet at the same time desiring that her time had not arrived so soon. The next two years proved to be interesting as we experienced both daughters reaching out beyond the comfort of home. In addition, we decided to let go again, by having our youngest experience public school versus homeschooling through high school.
Our second daughter was more closely connected to home, where she chose a smaller college close enough to home yet far enough away while allowing her to live on-campus to enjoy the full aspect of college life and being out on her own. When she needed to escape college life, she would have the luxury of coming home to regroup.
To allow our daughters to select their own choice in their educational endeavors of location and major, we also stepped back to watch them flourish. As our second daughter flourished I was finding it easier to let go. With honest transparency, I still wanted to be a part of her life, but I knew how important it was to step back. What we saw in our second daughter, was a young woman who grew from insecurities into someone who graduated with pride, direction and confidence in what she could accomplish.
As our youngest of three started her new adventures this past fall, the transition was found to be much easier. Her 3 ½ hr. drive to Maine was less painful for me compared to our first daughter. Phone calls at first were frequent, with her inquiries met with options, allowing her to make decisions on her own. As she became more acclimated, the connection was still intact, but less frequent as she became part of a community of friends with plenty of activities and studies that made her need for me less frequent.
With her recent return home from college for summer break, she has found that home is not the same as it once was. She shared that it wasn’t that she didn’t love us, but rather that she felt it was no longer the right place for her. She felt bad sharing this with me, as I told her it was to be expected. Once a child leaves home and discovers who they truly are away from mom and dad, they realize that home is no longer the same. They know there are house rules, yet very different from what was expected at college. The variety of “fun” activities at home are less frequent than at college, with good friends no longer across the hall to run and hang out with. She is starting that process of needing complete independence away from home.
As with our other daughters, we began to see changes in our youngest prior to her return home for the summer. Although she has always been conscientious, she is more aware of herself and why she makes decisions, and has more drive, self-motivation and confidence to go after what she wants in life.
The only wish I have, is that if time could be turned back, I would have been more relaxed when our first two daughters took flight. Not so much for myself, but more for them. I made mistakes, ones I wish I could erase, and with afterthought feelings as though I failed. As I shared these feelings with my girls, they admitted they felt as though I was over-protected, but felt that I did a good job as a mom, who cared and taught them well.
Amazing things happens when you let go and allow your child(ren) to spread their wings. You see all that you taught them as their foundation and strength. Their discoveries of being out in the world, making mistakes and decisions on their own, are what provides them confidence in knowing that they will survive. With freedom to choose, they have the opportunity to soar and experience life for all that it can offer. Although there will always be times that their travels will take them away, they always seem to fly back home.
I have discovered that I will never stop learning nor ever stop loving those that are close to my heart. In letting go, I have the opportunity to spread my own wings, and find that maturity for myself is freeing and a reward to enjoy.
Be blessed by the gift of your children and what they give back to the world in return,