When You Can't Let Go of Your Children
Jennifer Maggio is considered a leading authority on single parents and womens issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who draws from her own experiences through abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy to inspire audiences everywhere. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and writes for dozens of publications. She has been featured with hundreds of media outlets, including The 700 Club, Daystar Television, Moody Radio, Focus on the Family, and many more. For more information, visit thelifeofasinglemom.com.
- 2016 Jan 06
The day my son left for college I thought my heart had just been ripped from my chest. And I don’t say that because it sounds dramatic and makes for a great read. I mean, it seemed like my world would never be the same. I had been planning for this day for months, well…years. I knew it would come, but when it did, it was much harder than I had even imagined. It all began the first day of his senior year of high school. He drove his sisters to school, as he had for several years prior, and when they left the driveway, the tears streamed down my face. I knew it was the beginning of the end. Then, there was Senior Night for his football team and later his basketball team, and more tears flowed. With every passing event over the next few months, the looming anxiety of his certain departure from my home became ever more present.
The weekend before he left for college we took him shopping for dorm room gear – bed sheets, towels, toiletries, and the like. I fought back tears the entire time. (By this time, the entire family was sick of my tears). The night before he left, the family flocked into his room and helped him sort everything he owned into piles. We packed suitcases and duffle bags. We laughed about old times and told stories about when he got caught sneaking around. And after everyone had gone to bed, I knocked on my son’s door and asked if I could come in his room and just sit. We didn’t say much, just idle chit-chat, but I needed to just be there with him.
The next morning we loaded two cars to head to college. Before we left, my husband asked our son if we could talk. We took him into the living room and sat down. My husband began to read a four-page letter of how much our son meant to us, how honored we were to be his parents, the significance of his role in the Kingdom of God, and our hopes for his future. Though they tried to fight them, tears welled up in both my son’s and husband’s eyes. We made the short drive to his campus, unloaded his things, and within an hour, drove away without him. On the way home, we stopped for lunch with our daughters and when I ordered, the tears came and came and came. The tears didn’t stop coming for weeks, and then months.
Nothing is natural about letting go of the hand of the little boy that you birthed, reared, rocked, spanked, and encouraged for the last eighteen years. Nothing. It seemed I had been teaching him for the last many years to learn to be independent and let go of my hand, only to realize that the one who would struggle with the release would be me, not him. Letting go of our children as they age into adulthood is one of the hardest things we will ever do, as moms. We feel comfortable kissing boo-boos and cleaning up spilled milk. There’s not much comfortable about letting them go it alone, but it is necessary. For you see, it is the natural order of things. It is God’s intention for our adult children to move on, leave the nest, learn, grow, become strong men and women of God, and be productive with their lives. Don’t hinder their life’s fulfillment by being the parent that cannot let go.
This journey of letting go has led to me learning a few facts along the way, and I thought I’d share them with you:
- They will make mistakes, and that is okay. Part of my inability to let go of my young adult children was the fear that my children would not be perfect, wouldn’t measure up, or life would get hard, and they wouldn’t handle it well. It’s hard to even admit that to you now, because I cloaked that fear with the façade of legitimate concern. I told my Christian friends that I had given it all to God, but the truth was, I was secretly fretting day and night. Our children’s mistakes are life lessons, tools that equip them. No more. No less.
- God loves your children more than you. We know this in theory, but to embrace this truth and trust God with his plans for them is hard. God created them and knew them before they were even formed in our wombs (see Jeremiah 1:5) and this same God loves them more than comprehension. He gave them to us. It’s baffling to me, yet reassuring to know that my God, that God who formed Heaven and Earth, is the same God who is caring, leading, guiding and directing my children.
- You will get over it. I cried about my son’s departure probably much longer than I should have, and I had spontaneous tears even after I stopped the daily tear flow. But I can say to you now, I am learning to let go. My son is a young adult, as now also is my daughter. Their departures from the nest didn’t kill me or hinder God’s plans for me. If anything, it has created a new journey of self-discovery in me and a deeper exploration of who God is and how his love abounds for his people.
I will not tell you that I don’t eagerly wait by the phone if I think my children are going to call or explode with excitement when they are coming home, but the fear of letting them go no longer disables me.
*** Article first appeared at iBelieve.com
Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and founder of The LIfe of a Single Mom Ministries. Through her own mistakes, Maggio is passionate about sharing her journey with other single parents to encourage and equip them, teaching them to embrace the love of Christ. She believes the body of Christ can make a significant impact in the lives of single parent families. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.