Deep Roots, Strong Wings.
“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
– Kahlil Gibran
After an adventurous four-day work trip to Beijing (which you may have followed on Facebook and Instagram), I returned home Sunday night to confront an impending reality that my hearts been wrestling with for months.
That very soon two of my children will living on the far side of the world from me.
(Last year I wrote about my oldest son moving away in this article: Mother Courage: Learning a whole new brand of brave as my son spreads his wings.)
Just as my oldest son Lachlan did a year ago, tomorrow my daughter Maddy leaving Melbourne to join her big brother just outside Washington DC. It’s a long way from home – over 16,000kms in fact (10,000+ miles).
Of course having lived in the US for over ten years of their lives until 2012, moving back there to finish high school and on to college isn’t as scary as it may be for some. But still, it’s a long way from the rest of their family (at least a 24 hour trip each way, without delays!). Too far for me to ‘pop over’ for their school theatre productions or parent teacher meeting. Too far for them to come home for a long weekend. Thank God for the technology that helps close the distance.
My husband Andrew and I have always encouraged our kids to see themselves as global citizens. So we’ve always tried to give them deep roots and strong wings. What I hadn’t factored in would be that by age sixteen they’d be ready to spread them. The irony doesn’t escape me that their courage to pursue big dreams and travel far at such a young age has come back to bite me on the bum. Maybe I should have waited until they were older to encourage them to be so brave?!
Of course I shouldn’t!
Of course I’m not the only parent who’s had to get used to a new norm as children grow up and move out of home. I just don’t know that many whose kids have gone so far away at such a young age (though if you do, please let me know!).
Many people assume I must be anxious about having two teenagers so far from home. I’m not. Not one tiny bit anxious. In fact I have immense trust in their judgment – they are incredibly level headed, thoughtful, and mature young adults with big ambitions and a strong work ethic. The only emotion I really feel is sad.
Sad that I will not be able to hug them as much (I love hugging!)
Sad that I won’t get to be as immersed in their daily lives.
Sad that I won’t be part of so many rites of passage (like dress shopping for the senior formal) like other parents around me.
Sad their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins will also not see them as much.
Sad that my daughter won’t be ‘borrowing’ my clothes on a near daily basis.
Sad that the noise levels in our home will be far more like ‘normal’ homes.
Even sad that I won’t be able to nag them to pick up their clothes and put them in the wash.
But just as I had to go through this grieving process when Lachlan left (which I wrote about in Brave), what I learnt is that while its okay to give myself space to feel sad (yep, like right now as tears roll down my cheeks just typing this). It’s important that I don’t dwell on all that “I” lose, and also be grateful for all that they will gain. Grateful that we are in a position to give our kids such an amazing opportunity and grateful that I have children to begin with!
Lachlan absolutely thrived in her first year away at Episcopal High School (the 100% co-ed boarding school that Maddy will also be attending.) He was already an extraordinary young man when he left home, he’s even more so now.
And I know that what they gain from their time in the US will open doors of opportunity beyond what even I can imagine.
And I also know that the bonds of love that tie our family together so closely will only grow stronger with the distance, not weaker.
And hopefully within a few years the opportunity will arise for me to be back there working and living again, and that bit closer to them (part the reason behind them moving ahead – a preemptive move to avoid having to move in their final two years of high school.)
But for now, today, I let a few tears roll down my cheeks as I get present to the passing of time, the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new. Ultimately life is always full of change. Some we seek. Some we welcome. Some we resist. But all of it holds opportunities to learn more about ourselves and grow into the fullness of who we can become. Even if its sometimes a little painful in the process.
Deep roots. Strong wings. Brave hearts.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
And a few tears in there too.