My screen has been filled with First Day of School pictures lately: children wearing carefully chosen first-day outfits and proudly holding signs that identify which grade they are entering. One recent post stood out because the mother, Amy, is my friend. She took pictures of her four children who were starting in various grades. Hope, her oldest held a sign — “First Day of 12th grade” – and I was pretty sure those words were hard for Amy. Her daughter’s Last First Day of high school was also the First Day of the Last Year she would be living at home.
When I saw her at church a few days later, I asked how she was doing.
“I’m a total mess,” she confessed. “You should have seen us around the dinner table after that first day of school. We were all a mess!” She sort of laughed as she described her family’s cry-a-thon.
“We started with our regular tradition; each of us sharing our highs and lows of the day. Johanna, our youngest, went first and said her low was realizing that Hope was going off to college so this was her last first day and that made her really sad. Then she started crying. Then I started crying. Then even my husband started crying!
“Hope looked around at all of us, a bit stunned, and said, ‘You guys, if this is how dinner is going to go every night my whole senior year, I can’t take it. You’re going to have to pull yourselves together!'”
Amy’s story sounded like something out of a TV sitcom but I remembered similar sad feelings. I hated the agony of the anticipation. But I learned something after going through the experience of three children leaving home, and I told Amy that day: Anticipation is worse than reality.
That mantra applies to many situations but I learned it most powerfully in mothering. I could hardly imagine living with a hole in our family when our first was in his last year of high school. The agony grew as he graduated, cleaned out his room and began packing his most important belongings.
Those days were hard and the goodbye on a college campus, more than 1,000 miles from home, was horrible. But here’s the thing; soon after we got home, I actually felt relieved that those agonizing days were behind me and I could start living into a new reality and a new chapter in front of all of us as a family.
I now hold on to this deepening-faith-fact: God gives us what we need…when we need it. Not when we’re living in our imagination of what has not yet happened. How many times does the Bible tell us to “fear not”?
Yet I still have to keep reminding myself of what I know. I waste way more time anticipating my dentist appointment than I do sitting in the chair. Or anticipating the difficult phone call I have to make or the email I have to write. When I finally make that phone call or write that email, I remember that doing something is easier than worrying about doing it.
I saw Amy at church again last Sunday. She was talking and laughing with Hope at her side. Obviously, she was “pulling herself together” as Hope had requested, and maybe learning that the agony of anticipation can rob us of the goodness of our present moments.
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Read more about letting go gracefully in Carol’s newly updated and revised ,Give Them Wings: Preparing for the Time Your Teen Leaves Home (with our own Krista Gilbert!).
About the book: Your teen comes home with her driver’s license. College catalogs fill your mailbox. Senior pictures are taken, and graduation gowns are fitted. The family car is loaded to take your college freshman to his dorm.
During that transition time when a teen becomes a young adult, family roles must stretch and adjust to accommodate spreading wings. What can you expect in this process? Give Them Wings offers insight into how families change as parents and teens make room for the future. Emphasizing the need for independence and responsibility, Give Them Wings explores many ways that parents can equip their teen.
If your children are on the brink of adulthood, Give Them Wings can help you survive the changes and thrive on the challenges the next few years will bring. You can be prepared to help your teens journey into adulthood, as well as learn to enjoy the process of emptying the nest.
Enter our GIVEAWAY for your chance to win a print copy! Click here: a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Carol Kuykendall writes and speaks about all things family: mothering, growing up, getting along, letting go, reshaping. Carol has recently updated and revised Give Them Wings: Preparing for the Time Your Teen Leaves Home with Krista Gilbert. Carol worked at MOPS International for more than ten years, in Communications and Leadership Development. She is the author or coauthor of nine books and also is a regular contributor to Guideposts. She lives with her husband, Lynn, in Colorado, with Click her new golden retriever puppy.