Why Releasing a Son is Hard

This is a reprint of an article I wrote four years ago. 

I’ve been a mess the last few days. To the naked eye it wouldn’t seem like it but as I listened to my heart I realized I was. I’m sending my son to college, yet so busy and on the verge of tears.

I finally realized why. Big things are happening at our house and we’ve been so busy, so scattered, I can’t keep the moments in my hands.

Some moments in life are so routine, we hurry them on. Some moments are so big we don’t realize what they are until they’re past, never to return.

This is one of those big-moment times. 

I’d be lying if I’d say parenting four kids from thirteen to twenty-one is easy. It’s not.  This is one of those weeks where I’m stretched, like the stage when I had a preschooler, an elementary student, a middle schooler and a high schooler. Trying to meet the needs of each child at various stages is mentally exhausting. We’ve been in ten-to-twenty mode for a while now and things have been running fairly smooth.

Until now. This week, one of my kids is entering middle school. One is continuing with high school. One is starting her senior year at a university and one is leaving for his first year of college.

And their mom is a mess.

I’m a mess because releasing my first son is different than releasing a girl. Somehow I feel like he left a long time ago even though he’s in his bed every night. I don’t want it any different because I don’t want my sons tied to my apron strings.  My son’s grown into a capable leader, a responsible young man, and a gentleman to the girl he loves.

Somewhere in the last six years, I let go of his hand as it grew bigger so he could make decisions on his own and develop into the man he’s created to be.

As I let go of his hand, I’ve learned to stand on the sidelines and be there when needed while allowing him to stand on his own.

I grew up in a family with all girls. My firstborn is a girl. I’m on a learning curve releasing my first boy. I don’t want to hover. But I also don’t want to give a firm hand-shake and say, “Have a nice life, son.”

Girls come back to their mamas a little more when they’re older for wisdom and insight, at least mine has. Boys rightfully seek wisdom from other male figures as they get older.  Mamas of boys learn their roles change as boys leave their nest. We silently sew part of ourselves into their heart whether they realize it or not. Wherever he goes, his mama will always be there. Part of her heart ripped out, attached to his for safe keeping.

So today I’m a mess as I join the ranks of millions of moms who’ve sent their sons off on their own – to the military, to college, to the home they’re making with their chosen girl or to pursue their dreams in a distant place.

I rest in knowing I’ve worked hard at making time for little-big moments along the way.

  • Moments when he needed to talk
  • Moments when he needed me to stand beside him instead of in front of him
  • Moments when I stood my ground for his character training
  • Moments when I sat in the dark and cried because he couldn’t.
  • I rest in knowing he’s chosen good friends and mentors who’ve helped him sift through the things I may never know about.

For a few days yet, I’ll let myself cry. I’ll move to the next phase with this child while holding a little tighter to the two I still have at home. Their time will be here soon.

Like Aerosmith, I don’t want to miss a thing.

For more of all of this, get the book version of raising and releasing your kids between the full house and empty next, my release, “Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind.” It’s a great gift for moms for Mother’s Day or a mom of a graduating high school or college senior. 

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