I am well aware that my experience is by no means unique. Not even close. Mothers have been doing this and will continue to do this for time immemorial. But it is my first time.
We mothers open our arms and our hearts to receive these little people we call "our children" into our worlds. We devote our whole selves to them by being present, active, and engaged in every detail of their small existence.
From the beginning, they depend on us for their very lives. We fill their bellies, empty their diapers, alleviate their pains, soothe their restlessness, encourage their curiosities. We keep them alive and then we teach them how to live. We teach them to play, to create, to love, to speak, to sing, to know, to choose, to sacrifice, to give, to trust. We set the trajectory for their lives.
Their best interests crowd out our own. Their needs dictate our schedules and priorities. Their desires and pursuits become ours. In short, we allow them to be ever present in our hearts, as well as in space and time, all the while knowing that the end goal is to send them out.
We must hold them loosely while making them feel we have held them tightly.
From my sons' earliest days, I encouraged independence and self-sufficiency at every turn. I was conscious of gradually loosening my grip on them so that they could be strong young men with no ties to Momma's apron strings. I have been cognizant of their need to leave from the get-go and I have even looked forward to them taking flight. And yet I find myself strangely moved by the reality that my firstborn has left the nest this morning. Half of my world just walked out the door and no matter how many people assure me that I'm still his mother, I know...I know...that everything has changed.
Today is his first day of manhood. Despite this mother's heart and the remaining filial attachments between us, there is a change in my gut. He is no longer first and foremost my son. He is first and foremost a man.
Is he prepared to be the right kind of man? Has he been equipped to choose faithfully and wisely? Will he love well? Will he make my same mistakes or will his be different? Will he remain committed to Christ?
I realize my work isn't entirely finished. I'll still nurture and advise...from afar. But other voices and influences will be primary. As for me? I will pray. A lot. And I will learn to believe more fully what has always been true: he doesn't really belong to me, but to Christ. His future and who he becomes doesn't depend on me and my training, but on the Spirit of God moving, shaping, transforming him.
I expect that my new role, like all our earthly roles, will carry me through moments of trepidation, disappointment, and sorrow, but I also expect that these will be set over against moments of confidence, satisfaction, and great joy.
Thankfully, I know I'm not alone as I walk beside or follow many of you down this path (not the least of which is my own mother). I hope to do it with as much trust and dignity and grace as you all have.