Letting Go

This is a new stage of parenting for me, parenting a young man, as my husband and I like to refer to our 13 year old son, Elijah. After he turned 13, it felt like parenting 101 for me all over again.

I don’t really know what I’m doing. It feels like navigating unchartered waters in a misty fog.

By God’s grace, Elijah has been a pleasant “teenager”…so far. This is possibly because he hasn’t actually gone through puberty yet. I’m expecting this to happen within 2016. He’s at the beginning stages of it. However, he hasn’t exactly shot up in height. His voice hasn’t cracked yet. And well, other things are pretty much the same.

As I anticipate the hormonal transformation he is going to go through, I’m preparing myself, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to “let go” of the mothering bit. He’s not a baby anymore. And as my father in law lovingly reminded me, I’ve got to stop babying him.

I don’t really think I “baby” any of my kids, but if packing Elijah’s bag for his two week trip to the Holy Land counts, then yeah, I guess I do. I matched his outfits and oriented him on everything that was in his suitcase. I stayed up until late the night before he left to prepare his backpack with essentials.

It sounds like a form of babying, but letting him go on a trip without Edric and me accompanying him seems like a big step in the opposite direction. This is the first time any of our children have flown to another country without us.

The first night, I looked at his empty bed and felt like crying. His brothers were most certainly crying. I saw them in the dark, sitting on their beds doing so. When I flicked the light switch on, there were tears in both their eyes. They missed Elijah. I gave them big hugs and tucked them into bed, trying to offer words of confort I also needed to hear.

It was my parents’ idea to treat Elijah to a trip to the Holy Land with them when he turned 13. This is their plan for each grand child for as long as they can. So, the good news is he’s with adults whom I trust. My sister and her husband are on the same tour, which is doubly reassuring.

However, it took me a few days before the separation anxiety subsided. I am finally able to relax. Elijah doesn’t have a phone with roaming capacity so we have to rely on spotty Internet connection to communicate through his Ipad. I’ve talked to him briefly during the week and he already sounded like a more mature version of himself.

He was riding on the bus with a woman beside him during our first conversation and I was like, “Who is that girl beside you?” Eventually, he told me it was a young lady whom he shared the bus ride with.

When my dad jokingly said, “Yeah, he’s been talking to lots of girls,” I was like, “What? Really? What girls, Elijah?”

Elijah interrupted me quickly by saying, “Mom, you know I’m not at that stage yet.”

Oh okay. Whew. I know that. He’s not interested in girls yet, not in the romantic way, at least. (I suppose this is one of the benefits of homeschooling. Children stay children for longer. They aren’t influenced by the culture of school where people crush on one another early.)

The most challenging part for me about letting Elijah travel without us was getting over the worry. What if he gets lost? What if he gets abducted? What if he gets injured? I don’t think there is any mom out there who won’t be able to relate to my anxiety.

But I am trying to dwell on the positive aspects of this two-week separation. Elijah is making new friends; he is spending quality time with the Lord as he experiences the Bible come to life; he has to practice responsibility as he keeps track of his belongings; he has to mind his budget; and he is learning to look after himself. If climbing the tallest mountain in the Philippines with his dad was “Lessons on Manhood Part 1”, then this is “Lessons on Manhood Part 2.”

Yesterday, Elijah contacted us to show us the shofar he bought. It was a huge ram’s horn! And he told his dad that he got it for a great deal. I’m trying to picture Elijah bargaining with a Jew for this trumpet and I’m proud of him!

As for Edan, my second son, he has stepped into the “kuya” shoes. Today, I asked him to baby-sit his brother and sisters in the hotel room while Edric and I gave a three-hour seminar on homeschooling and parenting. I left my phone with him, but he didn’t have to SOS us at all. When I returned to pick them up the kids in the hotel room, they were entertained, busy, and having fun without us.

When food is left on the table, Edan is also our new garbage man. I usually ask Elijah to eat everyone’s leftovers but now it’s Edan’s turn. Somehow, this has increased Edan’s capacity to eat. He’s been eating a ton of food in the last week!

What about me? Elijah’s trip away is a reminder that God is the one who protects my children. I need to relax and trust Him. It’s not my control or my presence that keeps any of my kids safe. I do my part but their wellbeing is ultimately in God’s hands. So I don’t need to worry when I can’t keep an eye on them 24/7. God can do a much better job.

I am also learning not to be dependent on my kids for my sense of joy or purpose. The first day Elijah was away, I thought, Is this what it’s going to feel like when my children leave home one day? Ouch. It hurts!

I’ve invested so much time in my children’s lives because of homeschooling that I can’t imagine what it will be like when my kids go off to college or pursue careers that take them away from the Philippines. And eventually they may start their own families, too.

So I’m thankful for this foretaste of what it will be like to really let go. It’s allowing me to re-visit where my sense of identity lies. Yes, motherhood defines a big part of who I am, but my life can’t revolve around my children. They’ve been given to me for a season, to instruct, influence, minister to, and disciple. I’m certainly going to make the most of this time while their hearts are malleable and responsive to me (and Edric). But one day, they will have to stand on their own and make choices without mom and dad around. And I will have to deal with the void their absence in the home leaves behind and look forward to how God will use me in another season of my life.

If I’m to be fruitful when I’m an older woman…fruitful in the purposeful sense because I’m fulfilling God’s plan for my life…then I have to be anchored in the Lord. I am a follower of Jesus first before I am a mom.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine you are the branches; he who abides Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

And hey, no matter what, I will still be mom to my kids. Someday, my children may not need me the same way they need me now, but there will always be a big space in my heart reserved just for them and the door to it will remain open.

Singer and songwriter Mark Shultz wrote When You Come Home years ago which used to make Elijah tear as a younger child. He would tell me to stop the song because he couldn’t listen to it. It’s such a tender song. In the end, the mom in the story passes away but she reminds her son that she will be waiting for him in heaven. Elijah never liked to think of being separated from me when he was little. And now he is off on his own!

I haven’t listened to the song in a long time, but it makes sense to include it here as I ponder upon this idea of letting go. (I’ve been in a sentimental mood since Elijah left so you get another emotional song in this post!)

What’s my take home from this song? Let go as your children grow up and grow past needing you, but always keep your arms open.

When You Come Home

My first day of recess
They all laughed at me
When I fell off the swing set
And scraped up my knee

The nurse called my Momma
To say I’d be late,
And when she gave me the phone
I could hear Momma say
“I’m so sorry, son.
Oh I think you’re so brave.”

And she was smiling when she said:

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home

I waved good-bye through the window
As I boarded the plane,
My first job in Houston
Was waiting for me

I found a letter from Momma
Tucked in my coat
And as I flew down the runway
I smiled when she wrote:
I’ll miss you, son,
You’ll be so far away

But I’ll be waiting for the day

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong
And I will be here
When you come home

Well, I don’t think
She can hear you now,
The doctor told me
Your mother is fading,
It’s best that you leave

So I whispered,
I love you
And then turned away.
But I stopped at the door
When I heard Momma say,
I love you, son,
But they’re calling me away

Promise me before I go

When you come home,
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home,
When you come home.

Comments

  1. Marichu Catan says:

    thanks Joy for this post . My eldest son is leaving home soon ( August ) for Med school ( and he is 23 ) and I can very well relate to you . I feel blessed every time I read your posts .

    May God continue to bless the works of your hand as you continue to bless your readers more than you ever know .

    Thanks .

    Ichu

  2. I have been reading your blog for about a year. I am American and my husband is Filipino-Chinese. He introduced me to CCF when we came to visit Philippines. We are students at Dallas Theological Seminary and are also on a tour of Israel for three weeks. The crazy thing is I saw your son and parents when we were at a hotel near the Dead Sea. We had shared an elevator with your son and who we thought was you (must have been your sister). I couldn’t believe it 🙂 I looked for you at dinner but only found your father, I was a bit shy to introduce myself. Everyone looked happy and I’m sure your son enjoyed the buffet!
    This blog post is close to my heart. I am just starting the journey of motherhood. We have a seven month old who we left at home while we traveled to Israel. It is not easy to let go, even for a short time. I feel as if I am neglecting my responsibility to guard him. But I was reminded today as we visited the church of annunciation, where Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. I was reminded of the faith Mary had to accept the fate God had for her, even though it would have been a miracle that had never been done before. And she continued to have faith as Jesus grew that the purpose for Him was so much greater than she could give. I want to have that faith, my son is in good hands with my in-laws and his whole fate and purpose is in God’s hands. He is a gift to me but I have to entrust him to God.
    Thank you for sharing. I am sure many mothers are encouraged.

  3. Thank you for this post Ms Joy, It makes me miss my mom so dearly. At the age of 21-22 I left my hometown to work & to help my family and I can still recall the looks in my moms face when I’m waving good bye to her. I see the uneasy feeling of a mother that her eldest son is moving out from the comfort zone of life to become a better person. So what I do to compensate for the time that I’m not with her is everytime I go home, I would let her fix my stuff or cook my favorite meal..hehe. I always look forward to that smile in her face and how she would take care of me as like as I’m still 10-13 years old even though I’m already 28…I’m so blessed of your post and it made me realized that the love of a mother is very precious and they always know what’s the best for their kids…God Bless you & your family Ms Joy 🙂

  4. Lately I was feeling so down maybe because it feels my parents are controling me again that I can’t have my freedom anymore. well that’s just how i feel or maybe the enemy is just decieving me #bunsoproblems

    I read this last night and I was temped to quote this paragraph (‘So I’m thankful for this foretaste of what it will be like to really let go. It’s allowing me to re-visit where my sense of identity lies. Yes, motherhood defines a big part of who I am, but my life can’t revolve around my children. They’ve been given to me for a season, to instruct, influence, minister to, and disciple. I’m certainly going to make the most of this time while their hearts are malleable and responsive to me (and Edric). But one day, they will have to stand on their own and make choices without mom and dad around. And I will have to deal with the void their absence in the home leaves behind and look forward to how God will use me in another season of my life.”) post it on facebook then tag it to my parents due to what I felt like lately. but suddenly when I got to the part of the lyrics of “When You Come Home” it made me cry yes I cried so much that I remember how protective my mother to me to the point that even now that I’m already 27 they still ask me to tell them the places I go and the people who are with me (also getting their contact info) wheeeeeeww…) God made me remember that they are His gifts for me, to make know my identity on Him.

    i can’t take away the motherhood from my mom but I know that she’s is joyful seeing me become a very independent woman. Thanks for this post.

    Oh by the way It’s my mom’s birthday today 🙂

  5. I am a regular reader of your blog and this is the first time (I think) that I am going to comment 🙂
    I am amazed at your faith, and your willingness to share something of yourself and your family (through your blog entires) with your reader. I am happy and grateful that your site exists.

    This particular post made me teary-eyed. Your post on being prioritized by your husband had the same effect on me.

    I just want to say thank you for touching my life in so many ways and I hope you never get tired of sharing through this site.

    God bless.

    Maila

  6. Very tender, heart warming read 🙂 I am not yet a mother and hoping to be one soon, but I’m touched and can almost relate to the feeling of separation. And the song, ah, the passionate loving arms of a mother, it seems common among them all 🙂 Thank you for sharing a part of your life, your heart, with us Joy. You’re such a blessing 🙂

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