My teenage son left home today.
As I tearfully watched Jake leave, thoughts of his entire childhood invaded my mind.Sometimes I wish time could be rewound to when it was just him and me; he in my womb where his activity would be our joyous secret. But, from the day he preferred the bottle to the snuggliness of mommy’s nourishment to the day he went on his first bike ride down the road, I’ve loosened my grip, opening my hand and releasing him to the future.
He’s no longer Jakey and I’m no longer Mommy. He shaves, wears size 11 shoes, and his newly-baritone voice resonates throughout the house, often causing me to think we have visitors. He is comfortable in his own skin, and he laughs heartily at his own insights whether anyone else thinks they’re funny. He’s learning to make sound decisions, and he’s figuring out what contributions he wants to make to mankind. He is growing in wisdom, and he asks me questions I no longer have answers to. Unknowingly, he shows me glimpses of the man he is becoming and each time, my heart swells.
And now we’ve embarked upon a new milestone. He’s gone.
He’s forty miles away on a school-sanctioned trip and will be home in two days.
While it’s not like he’s going off to college or getting married, I feel myself loosening my grip yet again. In a few years, he will be living life according to his own values, setting his own course, making his own mistakes. He will not be mine anymore. When it comes right down to it, he never was. In releasing him—even for this short trip—I’m reminded that God never asked me to clutch him in the first place. My job is to teach and encourage, to discipline and love, to set an example worth following. God has big plans for Jake’s life, and my role is to get out of the plumb line between the two of them; not to be his manager, or his saint.
As he travels on his first multiple-day excursion without family members, I know this is the first of many times that his desire to pursue his own interests with his friends will trump his desire to stay home with his parents. And that’s o.k. It has to be o.k. Because like it or not, that’s the way life rolls.
Meanwhile, I cherish these days with my not-quite-boy/not-yet-man. When he wants to have a conversation that’s beyond the usual short teenage utterances, I turn toward him and give him my undivided attention for however long he wants to talk. When we hug, I always let him release first. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the hugs last longer than usual and it’s in those moments I’m reminded that despite all the changes he’s gone through and will continue to experience, one thing is constant. And that is the one thing I cling to.