In August 1973, my husband-to-be, Robert, drove out of his driveway in Manning, South Carolina, for his freshman year at Clemson University, four hours away. As he looked back over his shoulder, he saw a sight he has never forgotten and will occasionally mention, usually with a quiver in his voice. He saw his mom quietly standing in the driveway, tears streaming down her face. Perplexed, he wondered what that was all about. As a father he now knows full well what that was all about.

In about two weeks my husband and I will celebrate the marriage of a daughter; she will be our fifth child to marry.  Slowly but surely, they are all marrying, the ultimate “letting go” (except to the grave). They left home for college. They left home for missionary stints (2-3 years). They left home for gap years. My heart has just about had all it can stand.

I suppose for some parents, the “letting go” is a joyful occasion as they watch their child leave and shout, “Don’t let the door hit you in the back on the way out.”

For us though the occasion has been fraught with such mixed emotions. Well, I’m just going to be honest. For me personally, when the first child left home in 2002 for college, I cried for three days. I sat at the table for meals and suddenly would burst into tears, my head falling into my plate. I’m not teasing. I walked into her room and would throw myself onto the floor and sob.  I finally just ignored her room for weeks.  You would think with nine children, I would be glad to finally have one less – one less mouth to feed, one less child to homeschool, one less body to cloth, etc., etc, etc.

I cried because I missed her, but I also knew the life we had known as a family unit was about to drastically change — change FOREVER– and continue to change until one-by-one they would all fly away (except for our two special boys – praise God!). I suppose “new normals” occurred with every birth, but the arrivals of babies did not bring about the same feelings as these departures do. I do not like these new normals. I do not like them at all.

Nevertheless, being the mature Christian adult that I am (LOL), I slowly, reluctantly, and painfully recognized the supernatural ordering of things. I mean — it was God who created my babies in the womb and who created the need to first snip the umbilical cords. The first part of letting go occurred a few seconds after their births!!!! They needed oxygen apart from my blood. Thankfully, that was painless but, oh, the rest of the letting go has not been so painless.

If you are like me, here are a few thoughts.

1) Recognize the goodness of God in His supernatural ordering of this life. I mean – do you really want to still be changing diapers multiple times a day when you are 70?

2) They are not gone. They will come back. Some will stay longer at your house than at their house.

3) Revel in and find purpose in the years after they leave. During these years they will want to hear every word you say because they finally realize they don’t know everything.

Our children need oxygen outside of our home. They must pursue their dreams, their hopes, and their God given purposes. The years after they leave the nest are  different but still full of adventure and meaningful. They are all still our children; they still need to hear our experiences of life and they still need us – like last Friday night when my 32 year old daughter living in Alaska climbed in my bed and said, “I miss you, Mommy.”

written by Carlotta Jackson