For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)
I blame it on Fuji apples. My heart was glass, teetering on the edge of a shelf, poised to shatter whenever the world tilted. I just couldn’t predict when the ground would sway.
Because I had thought I was fine, my guard was down; I was just grocery shopping after all. When I rounded the produce corner that morning I wasn’t expecting a body blow, but there they were, red and mottled with flecks of green. I lost it right then and there in the fruit section of Publix. Fuji apples were her favorite.
My daughter and firstborn was about to graduate. The entire school year was a succession of lasts, and somehow I had been able to steel my heart and steady myself for the “big” things. But when I least expected it, when I wasn’t paying careful attention, something would find its way in through a tiny crevice and leave me in a puddle.
Fuji apples, for goodness sakes.
Motherhood is a million tender moments. We celebrate one first after another — steps or teeth or haircuts or school. We are thrilled for every success of our children. We anguish over any heartache or injury or injustice. We carry our babies for nine months, and though they may physically leave our bodies, a part of them remains. Sometimes our hearts carry the heaviest load. We devote ourselves to bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and the hard and best reality is one day they will leave. That is good and healthy and right.
Motherhood is ever bittersweet.
First, holding tightly.
Then, carrying with an open hand.
Finally, letting go.
Men may have physical strength of steel, but women are emotional titanium.
We celebrate with you, sweet sisters, the mamas who are on this cusp of sending — a first born, a last born, or maybe one in the middle. Those of us who’ve gone before you and felt all the emotions of what it means to see your baby cross the stage and receive their diploma are with you in this odd tension of celebration and mourning.
Yes, I said mourning — sometimes you need permission to mourn a happy thing. For 18 years or more you’ve been devoted to raising this child. Your love has been paid in blood and sweat and tears to arrive at this day. You’ve invested. You’ve been all in. Getting your child to graduation day didn’t happen by accident. You have played a vital role in getting them where they are today. And now your role is shifting.
It’s time to move on from one thing to a new thing, and it’s okay to admit you’re a little sad about moving on from something you loved (although, it’s equally fine that some of you may be relieved). It’s okay to cry. Your tears reveal something important so it’s wise to pay attention. Pause to hear what they’re telling you. Tears are a pressure valve, a release, a watery conversation about something that matters when plain old words won’t do. That day in the grocery store facing a pyramid of Fuji apples, my tears were acknowledging my great love for my daughter, and that I would miss having her living under my roof.
Maybe you’re facing an empty nest or maybe it will be a while before you’re there, but you’ve caught a glimpse and you know it’s coming. You’re shaky about the unknowns, but I’ll give you a word of counsel: being intentional and making plans for that season will serve you well.
Recently I was with a group of friends when talk shifted to our kids’ graduation. I was inspired by our conversation to share a few thoughts I’ve learned along the way. So, while you’re searching for the perfect graduation present to buy, consider a few more gifts they need. You can’t buy these with dollars and cents, but make no mistake: they do come at a cost.
Space. Cut the ties that bind.
We live in a world where we can remain virtually tethered 24/7. But we were never designed to live with a permanent umbilical cord to our children. Do your children (and yourself) a huge favor by resisting the urge to stalk their social media account or call or text constantly when they go off to college or move out on their own. You’ve done your best to train them up in the way they should go, and now it’s time to let them go.
Vision. Imagine their future out loud.
For years you’ve been an unconscious student of your child, and you, better than anyone else, see his potential. You’re well acquainted with his strengths and challenges. Because of your unique point of view, you can help your children imagine what fields of study or careers to pursue, especially if they’re having difficulty imagining for themselves. Don’t try to micromanage or control their choices, but if they’re struggling with decisions about a major or vocation, tell them what you see. Point out their strong suits and how that might translate into a career. As you gently push them out of the nest, give them a bullseye.
Prayer. Keep them near in your heart.
Praying for your young adult children is one of the best ways to keep them near in heart when they’re no longer living at home. Our daughter’s college provided an excellent prayer guide for parents, and though it’s geared toward college students, if your child is on a different track, it will give you ideas of how to pray for them.
Ecclesiastes 3 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture because it speaks to the ever-changing nature of life. One season spills into the next, sometimes in grand form and sometimes in quiet. Your child leaving home is a little of both: the ending of one thing, the beginning of another. A million tender moments and ever bittersweet.