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Ages & Stages

Before He Leaves

“Jonny!”

I yelled up the stairs three times before I gave up and texted him instead. Texting my own kids in my own house irritates me, but I hate it a little less than trying to get the attention of a 17-year-old who always has headphones in.

Jonny appears one minute later in the living room with a, “Hey mom, whatcha need?”

Two minutes later, we’re sitting on the couch, each in our own corners, feet meeting in the middle, and I’m looking over his college application before we finalize it. He will need my credit card to pay the fee, so we have to finish this last part together. He explained to me that the student at the college assigned to help him through this process told him that if he called in, he could save twenty dollars on the application. So I sat and watched him talk on the phone, read off my credit card numbers, and then pray together with this student. The application to Bible college and a pastoral theology degree is now complete.

Suddenly I think of the days coming so soon when I will no longer have irritation yelling up the stairs for his attention because he simply won’t be there. 

Earlier that afternoon, I had dropped off my middle child, my grade ten daughter, Arianna, at the church. She boarded a bus with her best friend, and they left for the Toronto airport to fly to Israel for two weeks. I’ve gotten more pictures and messages from other people on the trip I know than from my very independent girl. She, of course, is having the time of her life. It’s just on the other side of the world from me.

Thank goodness I have a 12-year-old Emma-Doodles at home who is stuck with me for a while.

College is on my mind lately, and it seems that every sermon illustration or funny story I hear is of some 18-22-year-old boy causing havoc and almost dying at college. I kid you not. The stories abound. I wonder if he’ll be okay. I wonder if I’ll be okay as these kids I’ve held and loved and raised start leaving me. But who can argue that spending winters in California instead of Ontario isn’t a great idea?

Along with all these stories of the chaos college-age kids can start, I’ve also realized something else. These people didn’t stop growing and learning at 18. Somehow even though I’m still learning and growing and maturing, I forgot that I don’t have to make sure my kids are perfect by 18. God’s not finished with them or me or anyone yet.

Still, I worry, does he remember to cook chicken all the way through? Does he know how to cook well enough to get through college? Will he eat a vegetable in the next four years? What about handling money? Thank goodness his friend taught him how to iron his own clothes. I could go crazy thinking about thousands of things, so I’ve decided for my teenagers I want to focus on making sure one thing is solid before they go. 

Love. 

Do they love God and love others well?

If they have those two things down, everything else will fall into place. There’s no way I can anticipate everything they have to learn to prepare them for every situation for the rest of their lives. While this mom would love that measure of control, it’s just not possible. 

So I’m preparing myself to let them fly. Maybe let them cause a little chaos. Make a few bad decisions. Go through a few hard things. They will be okay, and I will too. I will remind them and pray over them that they love God and love others.

And maybe I’ll check on the chicken thing too, since I’m thinking about it…

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Jennifer Holmes is a wife, mom, Christian School music teacher, and writer who also happens to have Bipolar II. She’s exploring how mental health and faith intersect and invites you to share that journey. She loves to podcast, blog and share on social media, often early in the morning all wrapped up in blankets. Follow along at https://www.jensnewsong.com and on Facebook and Instagram (her favourite) Click here to find her podcast, Jen’s New Song, on iTunes or Spotify.


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