Children are born, and from that moment on they begin the process of separation from their parents.
The first big step is Kindergarten. Putting your child on the bus, watching it drive away, and breaking down in tears on the curb. Yes, even the dads cry over this one. How will they ever get along without me? They can’t tie their shoes yet! We can’t talk to them all day!
Then follow a number of incremental separations, overnight trips, school activities, vacations with friends, mission trips, and we gradually learn to accept they have their own little lives.
But the next hardest separation, and maybe the very hardest one short of death, is leaving home for college, or just moving out after high school.
They have lived with you, or should I say lived off of you, for almost 20 years, every day, sharing each and every turn in their lives, whether they wanted you to or not. And as a parent, you’ve gotten pretty used to giving instructions and advice. “Did you sign up to take the ACT? What time will you be home? You need to practice your piano before you watch TV.” Probably by the end of high school most of this advice goes unheeded, but you give it nevertheless.
At last, there is that moment when they are really, really leaving home. The vehicle is packed with what they consider their most precious items (underwear, Bible, cell phone charger and guitar). What they don’t know, and you may not yet realize either, is that they will probably never return, at least not in the same circumstances, and your relationship will never, ever, ever be the same again. Gulp.
My wife and I have now experienced this joyful pain three times, and it has not become any easier. It’s just so hard to say goodbye to your son or daughter, especially when they don’t truly appreciate the significance of the moment. You know, but they don’t really know they are moving on to the next defining stage of their lives.
As they enter this stage, try to provide mature adults in their lives that they can consult on life choices. People like youth leaders, uncles, and even your friends. They may not listen to you at this stage, but they will listen at least a little to other adults. You might have to “accidentally” arrange these encounters, and also be willing reciprocate by having lunch with your best friend’s daughter to encourage her in choosing a college major.
So, prepare for the day, gird yourself, and bravely stand on the porch, waving to your loved son or daughter, wishing them well, letting them load up the car and drive away. And make sure you have a box of tissues close by. You’re going to need them. Then, keep praying. Growing up is not easy, but God has a better plan for them and it probably does not include them living with you until they are 40.
Fare thee well, my son, until we meet again, and oh yeah, return the garage door opener please!
I am interested in your thoughts. What advice would YOU give? Reply at firstname.lastname@example.org Email me if you want to share your stories about children leaving home. We could gather them all into a future article.
Duane Highley is the father of four older children who have been through a number of transitions. He and his wife Lisa reside in Little Rock, Arkansas.