Letting Go When They Are Grown

It happens every time I see his name neatly typed out on mail from colleges: my throat begins to ache as I blink rapidly to stem the pending flow.

He’ll be our first to leave the nest just as he was the first to be birthed, and this year marks the beginning of that long, painful goodbye that I wish to avoid altogether.  Couldn’t time just stand still for a year or so?

Why does the letting go hurt so?

Knowing our time is limited taps into a grief that never quite left me after my years growing up as an MK (missionary kid).  My tendency is to just shut it out, pretend like it’s not happening, find comfort in denial, because that’s what I did for so many years without even realizing it. It’s easier to cut ties than to live with loss, after all.

But hiding away from loss means missing these bittersweet moments where pride and joy collide with that heavy sense of the approaching goodbye. If I let go of one, then I must let go of the other, and I don’t want to miss the joy of witnessing our firstborn take flight.

For the mama whose firstborn is nearly grown. Letting go takes all of the strength a mother can muster, but as Christian parents, we have a hope for their future that the world can't offer. Why then, is the letting go so difficult?

We’re losing little bits of him already in this, his junior year. He works hard at his high-level classes, and spends time on quite a few extra-curricular activities. Some nights we don’t even see him until after his younger siblings go to bed.

There’s this fierce, nearly primal, part of me that desires to cling, to hold him back, to draw my proverbial apron strings tighter. On the other hand, my more rational side recognizes that this is good, that he thrives on new-found independence, and that I was doing much the same at sixteen years of age.


And oh, have we been blessed with this boy, no…. this young man now. He’s been a firm yet gentle leader for his younger siblings, always encouraging them to do right. He loves the Lord and often willingly bears the burdens of others. He is slow to anger and respectful of authority. He’s not embarrassed to use his gifts for the Lord’s glory, either, not like I was at sixteen.

I admire his resolve and his confidence in who he is in Christ.

We really couldn’t have asked for an easier teenager, not that there haven’t been bumps in the road, but he’s never derailed.

I know I have to let go of my claim on him, for he was never mine to begin with, was he?

Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from him.       Psalm 127:3 (NIV)

Why must letting go be so insanely painful?

It’s not that I don’t trust the Lord with my boy, I do. I know our Father has great plans for his future that I can only begin to imagine.

It’s not that I’m worried about who this young man will become because I already see hints of Master Potter’s hand at work, and I’m thrilled with the molding and shaping taking place in our young man right now.

The letting go hurts because the love is deep and real, and it’s had nearly seventeen years to grow in this body of mine that was once overtaken by his tiny life growing in me.

The letting go hurts because he is me in so many ways and his father in so many others.

The letting go hurts because somehow it feels like our family of six will never quite be the same again, as if this year is the catalyst for a chain of events that will forever alter the fabric of not only his life, but our lives, as well. One part of us will always be missing.

The letting go hurts because this mothering has become so entwined in my own identity that it feels as if a small part of me is slowly dying inside. I know my son will always need me, but not in the same way that he needs me now.

I suppose I expected to be used to it by now, this slow loosening of pieces of myself. After all, we’ve been experiencing firsts and lasts for over sixteen years on this wild yet exquisite journey we call parenting.

But somehow, these firsts and lasts feel so different. So final.

I know the letting go will hurt.

It hurts already.

The best comfort I have is knowing that our Father God once let go of a Son, too.

Our Great High Priest understands. He knows what is best.

I believe He will bring joy from this pain just as He brought joy from the pains of childbirth all those years ago.

For now, I will rest in that truth.

Jen :)



  1. Angie Ellis says

    I went thru this very same thing with Kyle- not once but twice. When he went to college it was so hard! When I was reading your blog it brought up all the same feelings I had then. It was a short lived time as he came home – but he still wasn’t here much. He didn’t need me as much. He was working & off with friends. It was hard to figure out when to ‘mother’ & when not too. Then he came home one day & said I bought a house. At first I was upset. …he isn’t ready….he hasn’t saved enough….have I taught him how to grocery shop…..the thoughts never ended. But I soon realized it was time!! We miss him being around, but he isn’t far away. He has realized that he should have listened to mom more in some areas & I have learned that sometimes he will just have to learn it on his own.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Oh, it’s so tough, isn’t it?! I’m sure I’ll have those moments of panic wondering if I taught our oldest enough, too, haha. It helps knowing that God will be with him!
      Jen :)

  2. Renee Pence says

    Feeling this right now with Emily who is a senior & that much closer. Crying right now as I type. Can’t believe this chapter is almost coming to a close and realize how much I love and will miss her. But I too see the Lord’s hand in her life and am so happy with the young woman she is becoming. I will savor the moments between now & next fall and be intentional about seeing her after. At least she’s only going to Ball State and won’t be too far for the next 4 years. Even so, there’s so much life that happens that I just have to trust God for her safety and good decisions!

  3. says

    Letting go–a recurring theme in our Christian journey. As you have well expressed, parenting doesn’t escape this spiritual exercise. My last one of four kids is still in college, but I’ll say that these launching years have their own unique treasures (and yep, some trials too). :) Enjoy the season!

  4. says

    Thanks for sharing. My oldest of 4 turns 20 in a couple of weeks. He’s graduated high school, attending college, and working full time–by his choice. We’re so proud of him, but I know in a year or two he’ll be gone–completely on his own. And at this point, I can’t decide if I’ll be glad for him or sad for me.

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