Our Easter trip to New York included a couple of days of college visits with my daughter to some East Coast schools. As my friend Russell suggested it would be, this was a “mixed bag.” On the one hand, I’m incredibly excited for Elena as she explores and considers the various opportunities for further academic study and music training. I loved being an undergraduate and I smile at the growth she will experience during these years. At the same time, the visits force me to confront the major change to all of our lives her leaving home will be.
We are less than a year and a half away from Elena going off and living on her own. To be sure, she has been away from home before for varying lengths of time, including one summer when she was at camp for six weeks. She has traveled without Dave and I both in the United States and abroad. But in all of those travel and camp experiences, someone was responsible for feeding her and making sure she got to bed by curfew, and at the end of those trips, I was waiting to wash her dirty clothes. Now, we’re talking about her going off completely on her own to – well, run her own life.
More importantly than her having to feed herself and wash her own clothes (she is actually a good cook and, if forced to, can run a washing machine), Elena will be living further beyond my protective grasp than she is now. I already confronted a long time ago the reality that it is not in my power to protect my daughter from all hurt and harm. Still, the fact that I “tuck her in” each night, making the sign of the cross on her forehead before she goes to sleep gives me at least some feeling that I can watch over her. Once she moves out, I won’t have that.
Still, as my friend Will reminded me the other day, the bird has to leave the nest in order to fly and so I open my arms and let go. What allows me to do so is the konwledge that wherever Elena goes, she is held in God’s loving, protective grasp. God’s arms and hands are a lot bigger and stronger than mine. And, however, much I love Elena, God loves her more. I know that doesn’t mean my daughter won’t have pain and heartache. And it doesn’t mean she will never come to any harm. But it does mean that she will never be alone and that she will ultimately be just fine.