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holding close and letting go

Anthony and I recently had the privilege of sharing our hearts with a group of students at Colorado State University. It was an Q & A forum where the students could ask us any questions that they had on parenting, special needs, adoption, raising a large family, school options, or anything else. We were able to answer a lot of questions on many different aspects of being a parent and what that looks like in our unconventional family. 

One of the questions that we got was, “What would you say is the hardest part of parenting up until this point?” Having already shared so many details of our journey, I thought that perhaps they would expect me to answer something like, “Staying on top of many medical appointments.”  Or maybe, “Ensuring that the unique needs of every child in the family is met.”  Or perhaps even, “Cooking a whole lot of food every day and making sure that the different dietary needs in our family are taken care of.”  I guess all of those would have been a reasonable response. But the truth is that none of those things is an issue for us. The daily grind of taking care of our family is actually one of our greatest joys and delights. When I can walk into my gym on a Monday morning and someone asks me, “How was your weekend?” and I can say, “Uneventful and all the usual”….that’s a very good thing in our world. Uneventful, more of the same, mundane weekends are a blessing.

Instead, my response was something that God has been gently helping me to navigate over the last couple of years. Being a mom to young children for so long, life became somewhat predictable and all the ups and downs that we walked through with each child felt familiar as each child grew older. Walking that same road for so many years became something that I could do with familiarity and a steadfast faith in God that we could handle just about anything that came our way.  Sure, different situations would crop up with different children, but the gift of time and mileage in our parenting gave us peace and assurance in trusting God through all the highs and lows. 

But then this thing happened that I was absolutely not prepared for.

My two older boys became young adults. 

And I felt absolutely clueless about parenting children entering a season in life where they needed us…but didn’t really need us at every turn…but still needed us. 

What they needed the most was our support, encouragement, and the freedom to grow.  To become young men and learn to stand on their own two feet in the world. 

My answer came easily as I sat in front of the students that day. “The hardest part of being a parent has been learning to let go, “ I shared. 

I failed quite a bit when Connor turned eighteen. The struggle in continuing to hold him close when my head knew to let him go was so real. The life change from raising young children to all of sudden letting young adults become more independent has been an enormous heart-shift for me. In those early days of parenting an eighteen-year-old, I would lie in bed late at night waiting to hear the sound of his car pull into our driveway before I could sleep soundly.  So many nights Anthony would remind me, “Honey, he’s fine! Don’t worry!”

God has been so gracious to me over the last months. I am learning (sometimes at a snail’s pace) what it means to parent these young men of mine with grace and a love that both lets go and holds them closely in my heart.

I’m learning to let very big pieces of my heart soar and become all who God has created them to be. 

I’m figuring out how to let them make their own decisions and trust that God is more than able to direct their steps without my help (darn!). 

I’m learning that it’s okay to not have all the answers that they need. Pointing them to the ONE who does matters more. 

I’m leaning in and learning to trust His heart, His plans, His purposes, and His extravagant love for my sons in a world that feels like it’s getting crazier by the day. 

And, by grace, I’m learning that it’s okay if my sons stumble, fall, grapple with the answers to many things, or even fail sometimes. Because it is in failing, picking ourselves up and trying again and again, that we learn, grow and mature. My own greatest failures in life have been those times when I grew the most in my faith and came to a place of steadfast assurance in God’s unshakable faithfulness. 

I still have fleeting moments when I instinctively want to send a text checking in to see where they are or get those guys back on the Find My Friends app (just kidding…sort of). But I am so much farther down this road of finding a healthy balance than I was a year ago. When we have full confidence in our young adults and trust their hearts completely, a beautiful relationship of mutual respect develops. And that, I love. 

Photos: Caitlyn Howell

I don’t have this whole new journey in parenting young adults figured out. Not at all! But goodness, am I loving every minute of the times that I have with these young men of ours! I’m savoring every second and loving the more mature relationship that comes with children who grow into adulthood. I’m counting my blessings for getting a front row seat as God directs their path and shapes their hearts. 

Let them go while holding them close. I’m getting it.