I am a very proud dad this month. My oldest son just graduated from college. I have many reasons to be proud; he graduated from a good school, with multiple awards, and even got to be one of the speakers at his graduation. I am proud because of all the hard work he has put in over the last four years to get to this point. As it turns out, I am also proud of us as parents. It wasn’t as easy to get to that point as you might think. You see, Kyle was born two months early, and complications ensued because he was born with cerebral palsy. It has not been a smooth road we have traveled, and we have faced a lot of fear and trepidation along the way. I can look back now at many of the things we agonized about and wonder: why were we so worried? What were we really concerned about? Now, of course this doesn’t mean I have stopped worrying. Today, I worry about what he will do after graduation. Nevertheless, many of my past fears were boogeymen I created, not real problems. Was I worried my son would starve to death? Was I worried he would get lost under a pile of his own dirty clothes? We chose the school based on many of our concerns: we looked for the major he wanted, but we also needed to ensure his ability to get around to services and classes. We picked the school which gave us a certain level of comfort and assurance that he would not get lost in the crowd.
I can still remember his first day as a little preschooler, as we watched strangers load him on a bus. My heart sank in my chest as I feared something bad would happen to my child. Nothing bad did happen, but that didn’t stop us from being afraid. We had the same knot in our stomachs when we drove off the college campus leaving him behind. He is still my son, and I am not sure I will ever stop having those feelings.
As parents we care for our children. We are protective of them, and we want everything to go well for them. Not everything we hoped for has worked out. There are still things we need to work on, and some things just may never be. I have had to deal with my fears over and over again as I try to figure out how to be a good parent. I don’t want to put any of my children in danger, but sometimes I have to let them seize opportunities regardless of my anxiousness. Otherwise, I will hold them back from what they are truly meant to be. I am not a fan of letting go; it hurts sometimes. I don’t want them to have to learn from the school of hard knocks like I too often have. I don’t want them to face the full force of a harsh world. I want it to be easier for them than it was for me. That won’t always be the case, because like me, they may have to go through those same hard things before the lesson sticks. As a parent, watching my kids take their lumps is not something I enjoy. Yet, as I pray for them and continue to try to teach them the lessons I have learned, their lives are less and less in my hands. Thankfully, they remain in God’s keeping.
That is parenting in a nutshell isn’t it? Whatever hopes our children are able to fulfill, there are certain things we just have to learn to let go of, some things our kids will just never learn. Ultimately, we have to surrender our fears into God’s hands. Focusing on them will get us nowhere; we must pick our battles, knowing which ones are worth dying for, and which ones we are prepared to concede. This is an art I have not yet mastered. Maybe by the time my last child is grown, I will have figured out some of this parenting thing!