The alarm rings earlier than usual. The clock reads 3:30 a.m. As I slowly open my eyes, darkness surrounds me and beckons me to rest awhile longer. However, my mind starts to nudge me awake. Today begins differently than normal, because today is a special day.
As the coffee brews, my oldest daughter slowly descends the stairs. She drops her suitcase, sleeping bag, and backpack on the floor, and I ask her a series of “Do you have …?” questions. “Yes, Mom,” she sleepily answers to each one.
We take final sips of coffee and head out. A very light blue peeks through the darkness of morning, but the darkness continues to engulf us, as we pull into the church parking lot. It really is early, but they’re all eager to go.
I snap a photo of the two coach buses awaiting luggage and passengers.
Following the send-off Mass and a blessing over the buses, I give my daughter one last hug. Then, she and 100 others from our church drive off for a youth conference several states away. They make it a true pilgrimage with many stops along the way—some fun, some serious, all to give God glory.
I drive home to a quieter-than-normal house. It’s incredible how I can feel the impact of one less person, even before the rest of my children are awake. It’s still really early.
This summer has included a number of events that have required me to let go. Three of my children ventured off to camp. My 10-year-old daughter was away for four days, and my 12-year-old daughter was away for five. Now, my 15-year-old will be gone for 10 days. What seems more monumental about this time is that she is going to be in a completely different state (and time zone). This is the farthest and longest we have been apart.
As I ponder this summer of letting go, I imagine that I’m flying a kite. I begin with the kite on a short string. It feels comfortable, and I feel confident, as the kite flies effortlessly in the air.
As the winds begin to increase, God invites me to let out the string a bit more. The kite needs to fly a little higher to maximize the conditions. If it stays too low, it just might fall. But letting out the string is a little scary, because the kite is no longer within reach. As I let the string out and observe how well it is flying higher in the sky, I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.
Watching the kite dance in the sky brings great delight to my heart. It is beautiful and free, laughing in the wind. It is coming into its own.
The wind shifts and changes a few more times, and with each shift, God encourages me to adjust my hold on the string. “Let it out a bit more,” He whispers. And even though the letting go is hard, the moment I do it, I see that the kite needs me to let go in order to be what it is meant to be and do what it is meant to do.
In many ways, our children are on a kite string. When they are young, the string is short and within our reach. But as they grow, they need us to let out the string a little bit at a time.
Perhaps it starts in preschool when we leave them in good hands for a couple hours a week. On that first day of Kindergarten, we let out more string, as we say goodbye to them for an entire school day. In junior high, they venture off to a youth group retreat for a weekend and then summer camp for a week.
With each experience of letting go, God prepares our soft mother hearts for the day when we have to let go more permanently: when they go off to college, when they get married, when they move away for work, when they join the seminary or convent.
Little by little, as we let the string out, we learn to let them go and be who God created them to be and do what He calls them to do. We learn to trust that God is ultimately the One in control, not us with our thin kite string. He is guiding them more than we are. They are His children, and He loves them more than we do.
God knows this is not easy for us. He has given us hearts bursting with love for our children! That is why we only have to let out the string a little at a time. But one day, when we let it out completely, we will get to witness a beautiful sight: We will have the pleasure of watching our children soar!
“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)