Suddenly the bathroom is all mine. The house is quiet. I can come and go as I please.
My kids are growing up and leaving me.
I never thought this day would come. As a young mother with four little kids I couldn’t imagine an hour of quiet. A full night’s sleep only occurred in my dreams. I felt destined to endless days of whining and poop and snot. I thought my life would be on hold forever.
And now my children are gradually migrating, leaving a slow leak in my heart. I just moved my third kid to college. There’s only one left. How did this happen? How am I supposed to switch gears when my life has revolved around these people? For a quarter of a century I’ve run every decision through the sieve of them and now I’m expected to just let them go? I want to be angry with God for this cruel joke called motherhood, this gig that sapped the living daylights out of me only to leave me in a puddle of tears. But as I raise my fists to heaven, He gently reminds me of His blessing.
“Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?”
~ Psalm 127:3 (MSG)
A mother’s legacy never ends. It lasts forever. Children are the gift that keeps giving, regardless of residence. So what is true about this change in my house? Can I keep more than memories? What don’t my kids take when they leave?
They don’t take our relationship.
My kids will always be my kids. We have a history that cannot be erased by distance or separation. Who else understands that my son gets emotional when he’s tired or that my daughter barks but doesn’t bite? My boys may be hairy men who tower over me, but I will melt every time they say, “Hey, Mom,” and come in for a hug. The compulsion to kiss my beautiful girls on the cheek won’t go away. My kids are connected to me. Forever. Good or bad, easy or ugly. I may not see or talk to them every day, but we’ll continually find our way back to each other. Their absence doesn’t take away our relationship.
They don’t take my purpose.
The exodus of my children frees me for things I couldn’t do before. My life is now open for new opportunities God brings my way (like this writing team!). My purpose is shifting, not being eliminated. God isn’t through with me yet! What exciting things may be on my horizon? Instead of saying “Now what?” I’m saying, “What now?”
They don’t take my joy.
I may not have a front row seat to the everyday adventures of my children anymore, but seeing their progress as adults brings a joy I’ve never known. It’s exciting to see my boy—who spent countless hours in high school writing music now—getting paid to do it! I can hardly take it, watching my spunky daughter playing with eight guys on the snare drum line at a Big Ten university, playing for 90,000 people on game days—90,000 people! My heart wants to bust wide open when my son, whom I literally dragged to elementary school more days than I want to remember, starts guacamole night in his college dorm on his very first night there. And my youngest, the girl who’s lived in the shadow of her siblings forever, now forges her own path in high school with gusto and grace. My kids don’t take the joy when they leave. In growing up, they’ve multiplied the ways I feel it.
They don’t take my heart.
I ache each time I set one less place at the dinner table, but the pain confirms my connection with my children. As my kids transition into adulthood my heart is tugged, but it’s a necessary process. The stretching provides a place for new people in our tribe—husbands, wives, grandchildren. My heart doesn’t go with my kids. The muscle is being worked to make room for more.
Though it may feel strange now, this time will pass. I will adjust. I’ll embrace the future as I did the past. I’ll remember they were and they are and they will be a gift from a gracious God. I will rest in what they don’t take when they leave.
What exciting things are on your horizon?
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