Parenting is a long goodbye

The oldest of my four children is graduating from high school in a couple days. When he moves out of our house to attend University of Portland, he will be two weeks short of his 19th birthday. Only my parents and my wife have lived with me longer and not by much.

I will cry when he leaves. He is a joy to my heart and a brightness to my eyes. The bond is strong and I will miss him dearly.

And yet it is a whole joy in itself to see him go. This is the reason why he was given to us: That we might give him to the world.

Bit by bit, we have already been giving him away. Slowly, we began waving goodbye to him years ago, for our goal was never to keep him, but to make room around him so that he would be prepared to leave and start his own household.

Dropping him off at the nursery at church when he was two, he somehow escaped and made his way down long hallways to find me in the sanctuary. The rascal! But I look forward to unexpected, uncounted-on returns to our home for a birthday or a ski weekend with friends or just because.

We say, “Goodbye,” always longing to say, “Hello,” again before too long.

Separation is both a death and a birth. One way of relating dies in order for another one to be born. Part of me fears the sense of loss that will come with that little death. Part of me longs to see what kind of man will be born because of it.

These are days at the threshold. One foot on either side of the doorway. It’s an uneasy space, not a space to stay in for long. But it’s a good space. We get to look back into the room of what has been, and we get to look out into the world of what may be.

From where I stand, all I have is gratitude. Even for the painful times, I am grateful, knowing that they are all a part of the shaping of a young man that makes me so proud to be his father. And grateful for all of the adventures and laughter and conversation and music we’ve shared, for those will be the memories I call up as I pray for him during the times between goodbye and the next hello.

I love you, my son. Go with God. Love the world. Be glorious.