One Down, Three to Go

by Editor on July 28, 2015

I can remember when my wings sprouted and I longed to fly the coop. All I wanted was to be on my own and what I perceived to be free. I took any and every opportunity to do my own thing (for better or worse) and I’m not sure I even blinked when it was actually time to move out of the house and into the dorm.

I don’t remember my mom being sad. Maybe she was ready for me to go! Or maybe she is a more mature person than I and managed to hide herself in the bathroom and cry her eyes out when I couldn’t see. I’ll go for the latter.

Here I am sitting in Kijabe, Kenya, visiting the 3 boys and applying for school for my daughter, and I can’t get it out of my mind; the fact that this is my oldest son’s last mid-term break.

Ever.

I find myself staring at him, hanging on his words, making up stupid things to talk about just to keep the conversation going, fussing over him and desperate to hug and kiss him and say sweet things that only a mother can say to a son, all the while trying not to embarrass him too much.

Does he even know what it means for him to go? No.

But it is time and he is ready.

I’m pretty sure he will make some stupid mistakes along the way and may or may not tell me about them. He may even meet a girl and fall in love.

There goes my position as the most important woman in his life.

It’s just around the corner. The day I give him a kiss and a hug, say goodbye, tell him to be a good friend and work hard, and a zillion other bits of sage advice which I will try to cram into the last 30 seconds of seeing him. I’m pretty sure I will succeed in teaching him all of life’s lessons in the final minutes of my goodbye. It is a parent’s duty.

I watched him run off to class today and noticed that he is a breathtakingly beautiful man. I like who he has become. He is ready. It is time.

I can imagine drop-off day at the school. In my mind it’s an endless sea of moms sobbing through their goodbyes, heartbroken that their kids did the unexpected thing and grew up. It was kind of like that when we all deposited our children at boarding school. I have history with this.

During the bus ride home the sobbing moms will be acutely aware that they are in the same boat yet fully married to the attitude that no one understands. This is when I’ll stand up and say, “What are you all crying for? You’ll see your kid next weekend.”  (I’ve got a bit of pent up jealous anger for crying sad moms who will be living within driving distance of their college aged kids.)

And this is the true and honest question of mine; can I cope? Can I say goodbye to him full well knowing it could be a year… or more… until I see him again?

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When I signed up to be a missionary, I did not sign up for this. I did not count the cost of children growing up and attending university. I did not foresee my son living on a different continent. I was sure that they would remain 10 years old forever, but here we are, just weeks from the day when he first sets foot onto the soil of adulthood, and we’ll be down one with three to go. Praying this thing gets easier before we send off the last, but just as soon as I say that, I remind myself that I never want it to be easy to release our children into adulthood.

I am worried. Worried that he’ll not just do stupid stuff, but do really, really stupid stuff. I’m worried that I’m wrong; that he’s not ready and he will need to come home with a failure ripping big holes into his heart. I’m worried that he’ll forget to call home and leave us desperate to know if he is dead or alive, happy or sad, thriving or … not.

Yah… I know. My spirituality and maturity rating just fell to zero, but there’s nothing rational about a mother’s love for her children. I guess I am no exception.

If you are on the same bus as me, sending your kids off this year, let’s make a deal. I won’t tell you I’ve got it much, much worse because I live in Africa and my son is moving to the U.S., but please, please don’t tell me how rough you have it when yours doesn’t want to come home until Thanksgiving.  I am insanely jealous.  In my better moments, I know this is irrational and surely there are moms who have it unspeakably worse than me, but honestly, it is where I am.

Instead, in a move toward motherhood solidarity, I’ll bring a box of tissues and we’ll share the common thread of missing mommy-hood and all the joys that having our kids at home brought us. We might even come to our senses and remember the countless ways our kids challenged us. (Err… made us seriously consider pediatric tranquilizers as a long-term solution.) We’ll replace the tears with laughter; the kind that makes your cheeks hurt and your sides ache. We’ll have a great old time with a glass of wine and celebrate each other for a job well done… children who not only want to fly the coop, but can FLY.

One down with three to go!

 

Previously published here.

photo credit

 

IMG_5505Jennifer Taylor is a married mother of four serving her second missionary assignment in Zambia.  She and her husband work with a local pastor and his wife in a community building effort in an under-served, semi-rural area.  She loves to write, learn, and teach and is a strong advocate for sustainable living.  To learn more about the Taylors, please visit, robandjennifer.wordpress.com.

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  • Kim

    Your post made me smile, but also remember those days myself. It wasn’t so hard to send my son off to college since we were still living in the U.S. at that point and he moved a whopping five miles away 🙂 Weeks might go by without hearing from him or seeing him as he immersed himself in college life, but I knew he was there, right there, just five miles away. A few years later when our daughter, the baby in the family, left for college, it was a whole other ballgame. For one thing, we were already preparing to move overseas and I knew this initial separation was just that: the initial one, with many more to follow. She also chose a college that was over 1100 miles from home. I flew down with her and we rented a car and I spent a few days helping her buy what she needed and settle into the dorm. The day I flew home I sobbed the entire flight. I’m sure the poor young woman sitting next to me thought I was a real head case 🙂 My sweet daughter, however, knew what a struggle it was for me and throughout that year she called me every single day. Sometimes it was just to say the day was crazy busy and she didn’t have time to talk, but she wanted me to know she loved me. So as hard as the separation was, her daily calls made it much easier for this mama.

    And it set a precedent for frequent communication after we moved overseas, too. At least once a week, and sometimes more often, we’d Skype. Emails flew back and forth too. For the past few years we’ve used the group chat feature on Facebook messenger to stay in touch as a family. And our son and his wife gave us their old iPhones and made sure we were set up so any time someone posts to the Family Chat, we know right away. It has alerted us to impending births of grandchildren, cute photos of the grandkids, and just the every day things that are happening in their lives. Gotta love technology!

    • Hi Kim, thanks for reading the post! I have thought many times about how lucky we are to live in this age of technology. I am amazed at the willingness of the faithful missionaries who served before us, traveling to foreign lands… sometimes to never return to see family again! Gasp…I can’t even imagine living without my cellphone. I am definitely lucky in that regard, now if only I can get my son to call me!!

  • Jen

    Thank you, thank you! Finally an open, honest post about the heartache of leaving college age kids. This is my biggest struggle and fear as my husband and I prepare to move overseas leaving all 3 of our adult children behind with our youngest starting college next year. We’ve been in the military and have dragged our kids all over the world and as hard as that was at least we were together. Even when Dad was deployed, I was always with my babies so imagining life thousands of miles away from them is gut wrenching. So many people look at our lives and think we are living the missionary dream. We’re empty nesters- we’re free from the demands of mortgages, car pools and parenting. Yet, like you I am “insanely jealous” of my friends serving on the mission field with their kids and even more so of those who live close to their college kids. Trusting God and releasing my kids is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. Thank you for addressing this topic.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Jen — could really relate to your comment here (even apart from being raised in a military family). I started watching families as soon as we moved to Cambodia, and right away I realized that families had to send their kids off after they graduated! (I know, quick on the uptake, right??) Anyway it was just such a shock to my soul to realize we wouldn’t always be together forever. Every mom knows that I guess, in her head. But to watch other families launching kids from afar, it hurt so watch and realize that would be my future some day too. So I totally get what you’re saying here — it looks like you’re living the missionary dream, yet you’re apart from the ones you raised and the ones you loved from before birth. And the thing is, I lived the dream of adult child living near parents for 8 years while I was having babies, while we were in ministry at our home church before moving overseas, so both my kids and myself actually know what we’re missing by being here. Anyway, yeah, just really related to your comment — it’s also why Jennifer’s post spoke so loudly to me when I first read it.

    • I resonate with your comments Jen, and thank you for the kind words regarding the post. I appreciate where you are at with this…. or… better said, we are sisters in this and I am with you in it. I love how you point out the struggle of dealing with perceptions surrounding that “missionary dream” (not sure I will every fully arrive there) and how our reality never seems to align with what our loved ones at home understand about our lives on the field. A major gap, and another reason why we so desperately need each other and a place like this blog to voice the things that matter. I was just thinking today about how we have sacrificed the comforts of home; we sold our house, our things, and said many difficult goodbyes. God has already proven Himself faithful in meeting our need with all of these other things, why would He fail us now? I cling to that. (We’ll see how I do in 25 days when we board the plane!) Thanks for reading Jen!

  • marty reimer

    Since we live in Egypt, I do know exactly what you’re feeling. When we first sent our son off to college, I walked around for weeks in mourning, until one day I heard the Lord say, “You do know he’s not dead, right? This is a normal and healthy phase of life and he’s going to be fine, because I’m with him.” Suddenly I snapped out of it. I still missed him loads, but was no longer in deep grief. And he did make some big mistakes, but the Lord, ever gracious and compassionate, was with him and continues to shepherd him and now, his wife and their two lovely boys! Take courage….

    • Thanks for the encouragement Marty. It is so true… I have MUCH to be thankful for, and I do feel confident that the time is right. He is ready. It amazes me how the Lord will answer our prayers even when we forget to pray them, like when we were preparing to leave the States for the first time, I was entirely stressed out and worried about raising our then pre-teens and teens in Africa. It was like a sudden revelation when I read Isaiah 22. God had given me a word… that He would provide a lamb. Like you, I snapped out of it. I should re-read those verses and take heart. The Lord has proven Himself faithful over and over in our lives, no reason to doubt now. Wise words Marty, thank you!

      • marty reimer

        what i love about the Lord is that we can, and should, be totally honest about how we feel, not try to pretend to feel the way we know we should. then when we do experience his love and truth we can feel that with our whole heart and soul and know it’s real. blessings as you process…

  • Angie Scott Weldy

    I’m already thinking about sending my oldest to college in 4 years! sniff sniff 🙂

  • Heidi Jessurun

    Oh thank you for this postpost! It really helps knowing others feel exactly the heartache and loss I am going through. I get it! Jesus ministered to me through your blog, and through Matt. 10:37-39, where the rubber meets the road.

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