I remember being eight, ten years old. I remember the feel of the bus seats on the back of my bare thighs, hot from the sun and scratchy - my first ride ever on a bus. I remember meeting other kids on the bus, gradually their names, where they are from. I remember day three of camp, walking around like I owned the place. I remember feeling like I belonged to a world of my own, a place beyond my family. I remember feeling curiously confident, knowing I could walk into a situation where I didn't know another soul and do just fine.
My oldest son carried his sister's suitcases to the waiting truck, labeled and ready to go. He'd been a nervous wreck for a week now, fears randomly cropping up. "What if they don't know where to go, Mom?" "I don't think Dinah gets how spending money works there." "What if one of them gets left at a rest stop?" In a rare show of older brother concern, his love and worry for his sisters leaked out of his carefully crafted preteen veneer of cool. I calmly reassured him that, just like when he went to camp for the first time, they will do just fine.
At 10 and 8, my girls looked awfully small standing in line to check in at the bus stop for camp. Their backpacks, purple and blue and chock full of snacks for the trip and a love note from Mama for each, hung heavily on their little shoulders. For a homeschool mom, camp is the first time you put your babies on a bus and walk away. It's the first time you put your most prized possessions in the hands of strangers and somehow drive off, knowing full well you won't see or hear from them for a solid week. Barring emergency, they are out of your hands for 7 days.
Their faces were a mix of anxiety and excitement. "Do I tell her my first name and last name or just my first name?" Dinah whispered, wanting to get the protocol just right. Fiona's voice was so small, telling the bus aid her name and grade.
This is good for my kids. An opportunity to, in a safe place, test out a tiny bit of independence. To learn how to find an adult for help that isn't Mom, because it won't always be Mom. Camp is one of the ways that I give my children the opportunity to test out a broader world than our own little bubble. When I let go of my grasp on their every day and give them a chance to fly on their own a little bit.
Letting your babies go is a slow process. Slower, for those of us who keep them home for a few years longer than most. I go home and even with five kids still at home, my girls leave a gaping hole in our days. A reminder that these moments are fleeting, these kids just here with us for a few precious years at the very beginning of their lives. It can catch you a little bit, just there in that tender spot in your heart that holds all the joys and pains of raising these kids. But the good thing? The thing that lets me sleep when my girls are a hundred miles away and I can't reach them or protect them?
My kids cannot go anywhere that God isn't. They take Him with them wherever they go, and He promises to provide for all their needs. That's more than I can promise. It's more than I can be. I think maybe that's the antidote to my hovering tendencies, my white knuckled grip on their hearts. I find my security in His promises because they will never, ever fail me. Can I believe on that for them, too? Can I hold on to the peace that comes from the heart knowledge of this truth?
That's the thing about letting your kids fly. They can never go so high that the net of God's presence, provision and love cannot catch them. They can never outrun His goodness and mercy that chases them down each and every day, forever.
Each day, I'm brought to a new place in parenting. I'm a pro at toddlers and potty training, but the new horizons of teens and adults kids is something that remains a mystery to me. My faith is tested each daym and I can feel God saying, "Trust me with this, too. Yep, and that. All of it. All of them. Every day. I've got this."
Even though they leave the nest for longer and longer each time and someday will build their very own, they take with them a promise that I could never keep, but He can. And does.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
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