My older son and his friends call it “future tripping,” worrying about what’s ahead for them as they journey through young adulthood. Let me tell you, I’m way past their stage, but I’m on one heck of a trip.
My youngest, who’s about to turn fourteen, will start high school in the fall. Since last summer, he has talked about going to boarding school. Maybe it was seeing his unofficial cousins thrive where they board or hearing his dad talk about his cherished memories there. Maybe it’s born of craving independence, wanting new experiences, and forging a different path that's all his own.
All of that makes perfect sense, but I’ve never thought boarding school was in our future. Not really. I saw it as more of my boy’s passing fancy and the application process was a bit of a lark that I thought would peter out like a car running on fumes. But this car is now running on rocket fuel. The boy has been accepted to an a fabulous school where he will have opportunities he wouldn't have here at home. It’s good news, right? Sure. For him. But it's hard for me.
I love this job of raising kids more than I loved anything else I've done, including interviewing Oprah during my TV years. This is the most important job I will ever do and (most days) I love it. I’m the mom who was always bummed to see the end of summer. While my friends (good moms who are, perhaps, slightly more well adjusted), were ready to say, “Good riddance,” shove the kids out of the car and speed away on the first day day of school, I slowly drifted away, hesitant to relinquish them. And the recent boarding school acceptance just sent the degree of end-of-summer difficulty to an all time high.
So, here I am, wallowing in a valley. I spent the last twenty-four hours overwhelmed by sadness, the anticipation of loss, and imagined uncertainty about what I’ll do, how I’ll find joy in a kid-less house that’s way too quiet and newfound free time that’s way too abundant for this mama’s heart. After nineteen years of life with kids, I'm not ready to be without them.
I imagine on the other side of the mountain lost time without this boy. I think about the car ride conversations we won’t have, breakfasts we won't eat together, not saying goodnight to him, not being the one who sees when he’s feeling down and can offer an ear or (hopefully) sound advice and missing out on his little victories that may not make it to a phone call. There is a long list of things I’ll miss. And then there’s the aftermath of dropping him off. In my crystal ball, I see my husband and I staring at each other without kids in the middle and I wonder what we’ll talk about and how we’ll handle this new phase of life.
I have known this tall, jagged mountain before me would come eventually. It does for all of us. Maybe you're already there or you're doing your own form of future tripping. I got my first taste of it several months ago when my oldest left and that was really rough. But this is my baby and it's much earlier than I expected to leg go, which hurts in a different way.
Let me pause here and say, yes, I know. These feelings are all about me. Full on. And I am well aware I risk sounding whiney and ingrateful. Of course I’m thrilled for my boy. This is an incredible opportunity for him to experience things he would not, and grow in ways he could not here at home. We are beyond blessed to even consider this option, albeit with scrimping and saving. And without a doubt, I know this is the path he’s supposed to take. I have prayed about this, asking God to open the door where our boy could best grow into the young man he was created to be and this door opened in a way that undeniably directs him to go through it. So I know it’s the right thing and I am beyond excited for him. But it's still hard to let go.
In the midst of this sadness and future tripping, I prayed. And God walked in on my pity party with a comforting thought that maybe you can use, too, for whatever future fears you might have:
You can’t see the other side of the mountain when you’re standing in the valley.
It's impossible. No matter how much you think you know about what's over there on the other side, you and I have no clue. Not really.
I love these profound revelations. Even though they’re obvious, they're easy to lose site of, like a lighthouse on the shore unseen by the captain who stands with his face turned to black sky instead of toward the beam of light.
As I pondered these words, I began to think of all the hard times when doubt and fear reigned in my valleys past. And I remembered the incredible things that appeared on the other side of the mountains I faced, things I could never have imagined in the midst of difficult circumstances. The truth is we never really know what’s on the other side, but we can somehow get through whatever awaits us.
No doubt, our September farewell will be sad. My climb up Mount Letting Go will be filled with unfamiliar, rugged terrain, and lots of tears. But I will look up to God and have to believe that loss creates space for something I cannot even begin to imagine. And I will anticipate, not just with the sadness that is a very real part of letting go, but also with the expectation that something good is coming on the other side of the mountain, not just for my son, but for me, too.
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