All Children Fly Away

What is a mother to do when her baby bird gains its feathers? A friend recently lamented that she would take her 2 year old son for his first hair cut the next day.  A sheer tragedy that his blonde baby curls would find the barber’s floor.  There was tension in her face and a tear in her eye. The bitter truth was evident. Her baby was taking another step toward adulthood. It was not the last step, thank God, but it seemed only another week and he would be packing his car to go to college. A sense of loss and dread came for she knows as all mothers know that a day far too soon there he will be no baby and she will be stretched into an ever changing era of motherhood.

As school starts, mothers find themselves in a similar dread. Bustling for “back to school” and shopping for the fall wardrobe, she confronts the conflicting feelings of pride and sadness as first days are at hand. Her toddler is scheduled for her first day of Kindergarten, her elementary child now a pubescent Junior High student, and an astonishingly adult-like young woman begins her High School career, and proud confusion upon confusion when her graduate sets up his University dorm room.

A mother’s identity can sometimes get stuck on what “should” have been. Many mothers experience guilt and remorse in the difficulties of the previous stage. She may even fear she has caused her child harm, haunted by the memories of disappointments or failures or broken promises. It seems that there is never enough mother to cover a day’s needs. Such fears hinder her from entering into the celebration of the “first day” that is now upon her. Regrets can dampen the excitement and joy of the new adventure that her child is entering.

Another fear may come. She asks herself if she is up to the task of the next stage. It is one thing to change a diaper or bandage a booboo, but quite another to relearn algebra, empathize with a broken puppy love heart, settle her own heart when her baby is steering 2 tons of steel and rubber at 70 miles per hour with those crazy drivers on the highway out of reach of her protective wings. Letting go is hard in any realm, but no more so when a mother must transition from being everything to an infant to a mere advisor to her nearly independent university student. God is merciful to grow them up as slowly as He does for it is overwhelming at the pace it actually comes.

But wait. Don’t lose sight of the main job description. The task of parenting is to teach the chicks to fly. Set aside regrets and fears. Transitions are truly marks of success for parents. Mothers nurture her chick to the edge of his healthy new life. He must flap his wings and imitate the full flight long mastered by his parents. Her son must leap (or be pushed), to test if his wings can carry him from branch to branch.

Yes mothers, celebrate your motherhood! Be joyful and proud and lead your child in excitement and anticipation as she meets her teacher, gets her locker, chooses her friends, develops her own personality, chooses her own path and learns from her own mistakes. You too are on an adventure of trust and fear. You must take another step back from the hands-on management of her life — a challenging transition of your own. A step back as they step forward. A little less in control, a little less telling them and less doing for them. A little more respecting their independence and allowing them to learn from their own mistakes. A little less able to protect and a little more trusting them and God for their safety and security.

So as the tears come when you watch your child enter his “first day” of riding the bus, driving himself to school, or buying her first semester’s books, remember that mothers are always mothers. The involvement levels and responsibilities will be reduced. The steps back are painful and filled with anxiety. The regrets will heal. Find freedom in your heart to celebrate the successful passage of a child into their new step of maturity. Champion their achievement and join them in the adventure of growing up. With every expression of independence of your son or daughter allow the quiet, confident grin to cross your face, that you have been part of the making of a good man or woman and watch them fly.

Originally Published at The Metro Woman, August 2010