I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. – John 14:11 (NRSV)
So my baby boy went to college this week. Well, Eldest is certainly not a baby – he’s an 18-year old, 6’7”, 265 pound young man. As we’ve neared this milestone, I’ve been thinking a lot about his many milestones.
Some of the most significant milestones in our lives are separation milestones: the first time our child is cared for by someone else, when they are weaned, when they could walk (away), when they go to school, when they drive away in a car by themselves. In all of these, I was never far away. Each of these separations was short – but they all build upon one another as we ready our children to live life in the world.
When Eldest got his driver’s license – and began to stay out later than we stay up – I still wanted him to let us know when he got home. I had no trouble sleeping while he was out. I was more concerned about waking up in the middle of night and not knowing if he was home. Chances are, if he told me when he came home, I wouldn’t remember it, wake up in the middle of the night and not know if he was home. To be honest, I didn’t want to get up and check the garage for the car because I’d be fully awake then. Instead, I had him put the keys by the bed. That way, I’d wake up in the night and know he was home.
But now, I’ll wake up and know he’s not at home. (I could stalk him on the Find iPhone app…)
Over the last months, I have reflected on the ways we have tried our best to love and parent our kids so that they would be prepared for this significant separation milestone. I’ve been asked many times if I’m worried about whether he’ll do OK, that he’s so far away, about the first time he gets sick or is faced with a hard choice. My response was that while I’m going to miss him, I’m not really worried. Eldest is ready for college.
He’s ready to be separate.
Of course, I’m going to miss him. I’ll miss him as a person and the family unit we have been for the last 15 years (since Youngest was born). I’ll miss his sense of humor and watching the boys together. I’ll miss the hugs goodnight, watching him eat huge amounts of food, and even tripping over his size 16 shoes.
But this isn’t what I’ve been spending my time on the last few months.
Instead, I’ve been thankful that Eldest is a good kid, has a high emotional intelligence, and has both book and street smarts. I’ve been peaceful because even though I know he won’t always consider all the consequences of his actions or make the best decision – and that sometimes he’s going to fail – I also know he’s able to learn from failure. I’ve been joyful, sharing in his accomplishments of being accepted into the Honors College and the excitement of receiving an offer to play football. I’ve made a choice to celebrate.
It’s true that when I wake up at night, I won’t see keys by the side of the bed, there will be someone missing from the dinner table at night, and I’ll have to settle for texts rather than hugs. But separation is part of the joy of parenting. I know I’m not the one going to college but just as I’ve shared his joy over the last 18 years, I can continue to share his joy as he heads out in his own because joy continues, even in separation.
And his joy is making my joy complete.
Faithful and ever-present God, you deserve my trust in your love for my child. I give thanks that you continue to make yourself known in his life even when I’m not there to show him the way. I give thanks that he is wonderfully made. But I also confess that while I believe, I need help in my unbelief. Enable me to hold tight to your promises that you never leave us orphaned and that as we belong to you, we also belong to one another. For your love is not bound by time or space and it will not end. May your joy be made complete in us, Amen.