Thursday, March 13, 2014

Empty next?

This is a weird stage of parenting.  My girls are 21 and 18, each teetering on a birthday next month.  They are moving out from under my roof by degrees; the older one by the simple strategy of getting an apartment and getting married, and the younger one by the slightly more complicated method of going away to college, which means she still gets to keep her bedroom and come home on breaks.

That makes it easier on the old man, who doesn't have to adjust to their complete absence all at once. It's a weird combination of, "Thank God they're grown up" and "What? Don't they need me anymore?"  The comfort in it all is that they're doing far, far better at this age than I ever did, so I can't really do the anxious parent thing and wonder how they're going to destroy their lives.  I do it anyway.

It's exciting to see them launching, like rockets headed for outer space, but it's hard to be the guy left on the launch pad, sweeping up debris and putting leftover rocket fuel back in storage.

I think one of the most important tasks in the world -- certainly one of the most important tasks for parents, and I believe one of the most important tasks for the church -- is to launch our very best people as high and as far as we can.  It's a complicated process and requires a lot of self-sacrifice, not for our own glory but for the gain of others.

Maybe what makes it so hard is that the launching seems to take forever.  It's a long-term emotional adjustment.  Tempting as it is, you can't just say "Bye! Love you!" and disengage emotionally.  The launched will keep on looping back to the ground for reassurance, retraining, and even repentance.  You have to stay available.  You have to remain engaged.

The upside is that you get to be a part of it.  As much fun (and terror) as it was to be launched yourself, this time you get to be a part of the next generation launching and you get to experience all over again a little bit of that stomach-tightening adrenaline of what it means to go boldly (boldly?) out into the world, much afraid, to conquer dragons.

Sorry to mix so many metaphors here.  Maybe they're outer space dragons or something.  Roll with it.

So this weekend, one gets her own apartment and the other goes back to school.  It will be quiet in the house.

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