Parenting: the Long Goodbye

I am in the “letting go” years of motherhood.   I know Alzheimer’s disease is considered the long-goodbye, but having teenagers feels as much so.  Except instead of forgetting precious memories, I am flooded with them: story times at the library, field trips to the zoo, class parties, countless baseball games, first dances, and ordinary moments that have aged into extraordinary memories.

It is often said of parenting that the days are long but the years are short.  I would only add that the years get successively faster like a racing heart sprinting toward the finish line.  The teenage years are propelled with a momentum that has little to do with parenting but is filled with our children’s pursuits.  We no longer set the pace of their days.  Instead, we race to keep up or merely watch their projection as they shoot off like a ball in a pinball machine: hither and yonder, to and fro, until they finally land in their beds at night.  Still.   Safe.  Ours.

But the truth is they were never ours to keep.  They were trusted to us by an ever-generous God for what suddenly feels like too little time.  Somehow, he put us together knowing that we will each learn from the other.   We are shown we could love more than seemed physically possible and that we can stretch beyond what we once considered strong to a surprisingly soft place of resilience.  I can’t think of anything else that compares to the ways it has broken me, built me anew, and taught lessons that only love could teach.

As these years wane, I marvel at the people my children have become.  I’m in awe that I had any part in it.  My inclination is to hold tight to the time remaining, but nature and nurture aren’t great friends during the teenage years and I know what my boys need is space not smothering.  I hold back despite wanting to hold on.  Some days it isn’t so bad. There will be unexpected conversations, pockets of time that when measured by a clock are insignificant but have a quality and genuineness that is unconcerned with mortal notions of time.  I vacillate between the relief of their growing independence and the revelry I sometimes feel in being needed for something as menial as making a peanut butter sandwich and putting it in a brown paper bag.   I have moments when I am so frustrated that I want to start packing their bags to send them off to college and other times that the thought of them going can stop my breath.

I know these years are preparing them to fly, and letting go is the only way they will have a chance at liftoff.  But somehow, the preparation feels like it’s more for me than them.  It’s a loosening grip; a slow unravel; a series of lasts; a top in its final few spins of what has been a fast, colorful, and wobbly whirlwind.

The paradox of parenting is that while our children may have never been ours to keep, the love we have for them is — always and forever.  It was there before that first hello and will be there after the long goodbye ends.  It’s that love that will launch their flight and love that I pray will always lead them home.

This is dedicated to all parents wherever you are in your parenting journeys and however old your babies may be, whether they are still at home or in their heavenly home — may they always fill your hearts with joy. 

Read last week’s post here.


18 thoughts on “Parenting: the Long Goodbye

  • May 22, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    So beautifully said!

    • May 23, 2019 at 2:52 am

      Thank you! XO

  • May 21, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    You totally have all the feelings down in words! I bet we will all need support groups for when our kids leave !!

    • May 23, 2019 at 2:53 am

      Helena, I have needed one since I became a mother! That’s what ya’ll are for me and I am eternally grateful!

  • May 21, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    That was so well said and so well written. I always enjoy reading your blog, but this one of course really touched me. I am in the same place with my first born becoming a rising senior. You very eloquently put into words what I am thinking and feeling. Love this post!

    • May 23, 2019 at 2:55 am

      Thank you Cheryl! I know — all I keep thinking is in four years I am not going to have any children at home! I can’t even wrap my head around it. They consume us in the best possible way and then they leave?! Oh, Lord help us!

  • May 21, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    Well said, as always, sweet Laura!!!

    • May 23, 2019 at 2:56 am

      Stacy – I know you are about to live through it a second time! You handle it all with such grace. I am going to try and follow your lead! (But more than likely I will be hanging on to their shirts sobbing!)

  • May 21, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    Should not have read this at work….tears as everything is going by so fast. Beautiful words Lara!!

    • May 23, 2019 at 2:59 am

      Thank you! Not sure how it happens. Aren’t we the ones who are still in high school? Did anyone ever tell us that life was going to pass this fast? That our acne would be replaced by wrinkles? What a crazy spin! Remember Jim Clark road?

  • May 21, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Lara-hi friend! I so enjoy reading these! This weeks post has captured the last year of my life. A lot of crying, laughing, remembering, anguish, and sleepless nights.
    Nicholas graduated from high school Sunday! Graduation weekend was a beautiful celebration of his class of 2019. Yes, I am in awe of the man he has become and still working to be. I read a great book that said we as parents are essentially getting fired from our jobs even if we don’t want to. I tried to file a complaint about improper documentation over last 18 years for my firing to no avail?.
    The relationships we have with our children move to adult-adult not parent to child. Wow- hard to accept. It’s time to grow and move on. AND Sidney is now a senior so I am hitting the repeat button for next year?.

    By the way, he is headed to the sunshine state for college!

    • May 23, 2019 at 3:14 am

      So thrilled to hear from you! I already responded once but the devil must have deleted because it did not show up! I am emailing you separately because I am dying to hear where Nicholas is going to school! I remember when you first became pregnant with him so it’s crazy for me too to think of where you are at – where we are all at!

      Bittersweet! But glad our journeys have merged in so many ways.

  • May 21, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Nailed it. Beautifully❤

    • May 23, 2019 at 3:10 am

      Thank you, Jenny!

  • May 21, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Nothing like a good cry at 6 AM. Your words are So true! I am thankful for all the memories but they catch me off guard a lot these days.

    • May 23, 2019 at 3:09 am

      You are so lucky that your sweet girl is still at home! Wouldn’t that be such a dream if all our kids stayed in our beautiful city?! Let’s start praying for that!

  • May 21, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Beautiful and excruciatingly accurate.

    • May 23, 2019 at 3:08 am

      Thank you!

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