There’s a saying widely circulated through cutely designed memes on Pinterest or Facebook that most parents would consider gospel truth. Where raising children is concerned, “the days are long, but the years are short.”
Our daughter, on arrival at her preschool open house, took off running in the direction of the large indoor playground set in the corner of the well-appointed classroom. I still remember—curls flying, pink floral sundress with matching sandals (I, personally, was very proud of that outfit). She looked over her shoulder to us for a moment as she hightailed it to the plastic play palace, smiling all the way. We knew it then. She’d leave home sooner than later, running off into her future with a quick glance to us over her shoulder, then, just like that, be gone.
We are thrilled that her diligence and brilliance through high school landed her a hard-won spot at a renowned university, and as such, her job prospects upon graduation are very, very good. From a practical sense in terms of her future, this is what we hoped for. But now one of the chicks in our little nest is ready to fly, and both my husband and I feel as if we need a Xanax or two.
Elementary and middle school with all its busyness of homework, music, sports, and programs, and our parental involvement in all of it, just flew by. When our prayers led us to opt for an academically rigorous public high school, it was our hope the opportunities available there would set our child up nicely to have many choices when it came to college. And that definitely panned out. Talking about college seemed so far away then. But before long we found ourselves on campus visits, and as we went on all the tours and listened in on information sessions, the reality of us having a college kid certainly seemed nearer, but still far enough for our liking.
The “sooner” moment in the “sooner than later” scenario is here. As you read this, we are using our Amazon Prime membership to its fullest, securing dorm essentials, school supplies, and all the things our daughter shared with us at home that she will no longer have access to (my red thermal ceramic blow dryer is staying in Maryland).
We are thrilled she’s going to attend a great school that will position her well in her chosen field, but said school is also clear across the country: the word “bittersweet” couldn’t be truer. And while we are so grateful to the Lord for His leading and protection throughout our daughter’s life these past 18 years, we know her leaving is also part of the plan. But it sure would be nicer if it didn’t have to sting so much.
So now as she goes, here’s what we need her to know (I’m also planning to tear this page out and stick it in her suitcase, perhaps laminated):
God cannot be limited. He’s bigger than we know, and works in ways, and through people, that we can’t predict. Most important, His love, care, and guidance over us go with us wherever we are. Remember to tune into that presence daily, because it isn’t limited to church, church school, and other “safe zones.”
You will make mistakes. You will veer off the path sometimes. Your boundaries will be tested. But a loving God is there is steer you where He needs you to go. So go with Him. As parents, our role is shifting in your day-to-day happenings, but the 100 percent presence of God can never be removed from you.
The bittersweet spaces and places of life also show us the grace of God. Don’t be afraid of them.
These are crazy days we are living in. But the Word of God is filled with promises and direction not to fear the unknown. You can step out of your comfort zone and trust Him completely, because, kiddo, that’s exactly where life is taking you now. Out of our home, into the unknown, with God beside you every step of the way.
For your faith to be authentic to you, it must be challenged. College is going to be even more of a testing ground than you’ve experienced before. The Lord is up for that challenge, so go to Him through it all and never let go of His hand.
And just for good measure: Eat your fruits and veggies, and limit your consumption of Chick-fil-A waffle fries; bubble tea can get expensive, so pace yourself; never be out alone at night; Sabbath rest is going to feel supersweet now, so relish it; FaceTime us and respond to our daily texts—emojis optional; keep in touch with your little brother because you will miss each other; and if you need anything at all, we’ll have it at your campus Amazon pickup spot before the day is out.
Last, remember this: You are on loan to us, but you are forever His.
Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review.