Today, my fifteen-year-old pulled into a parking space, albeit a bit crooked, in front of the drivers’ education school. He had driven us there, on the highway, and done well. We both opened our doors and climbed out.
“You’re not coming in with me, are you?” he said, with a hint of alarm.
“No, don’t worry. Just getting into your seat.” I moved around the front of the car and slid into the driver’s side. Already he was walking up the steps to the building. I paused to notice his tall, slim body open the door and disappear without another look.
It would’ve been weird if he had turned and waved as I sat in my car watching him. He’s not five anymore. Yet a myriad of other boy backs flitted across my memory as he vanished.
Boys, climbing on school buses, wearing backpacks, eager with anticipation. Boys running onto soccer fields, kicking their soccer balls ahead of them, their faces flushed with excitement. I recalled standing with them while they rang doorbells on the front porches of their friends’ houses; as I chatted with their friends’ moms, I remembered my boys racing away, upstairs or outside to play, with no concern about a pick-up time, just that it might be too soon.
Oh, the years of dropping them off, watching their backs recede into classrooms, concerts, try-outs, music lessons, programs, youth groups, interviews and summer jobs. Always, I watched their backs moving away from me, toward challenge and personal growth. From climbing on tour buses for sleep-away camps to boarding planes for missions trips and study-abroad semesters, I’ve stood transfixed by the symbolism of the backs of my children. (Read Gone! to commiserate over the impact of a long separation.)
Leaving is growing. It’s self-education. It’s good.
So how do you help them walk away with heads held high and smiles on their faces? It doesn’t matter what age they are, the principles are the same. I think a parent must tell them and show them: Continue reading