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When She Flies Away with My Heart

Christine Carter


I sat across the table from my daughter while she was eating a quick meal after school and before she’d be leaving to go to work for the rest of the night.

I listened while she described the topic she was working on for her speech class, giving me all the details that depicted facets of her life. I told her how proud I was of her efforts and how much I loved what she was choosing to share. As we continued our conversation, she went on to tell me about other things going on, catching me up on whatever we hadn’t discussed since the day before.

I love that we are so close.

I’m so grateful she wants to involve me in every aspect of her life. I’m thrilled that she still asks for my opinion, my support and my guidance in both the big decisions and small choices she makes every day.

Our time together is limited, with her two jobs and a part-time internship at church, plus all her school work, so we squeeze in as much as we can when she’s home.

Sitting at that table, watching my beautiful almost grown girl share what’s on her mind and how she’s feeling about this and that, I felt something intense bubbling up inside me. This eruption of emotions came out of nowhere and burst through in tears. I couldn’t stop them from coming; I couldn’t hold them in. I had no choice but to let them fall down my face as I looked at my girl.

“Mom! Are you okay? What’s wrong?” She leapt up out of her chair and came over to hug me, and I held her so hard and cried even harder.

I told her how much I’m going to miss this. How I can’t believe it’s really going to happen. How I don’t know how I’ll be able to let her go. How this home, our family, my life, will be forever changed, forever empty without her in it.

How I’ll miss her smile, her voice, her laughter and every single piece of who she is and how she brings so much joy to my days. I can’t even imagine her not being here with me, sharing in this life we have together.

It all poured out as we held each other, and she consoled me and told me it will be okay.

She said she will miss me so much, too, and that she can’t imagine how hard it will be for her to be so far away. And although I know this is true, I also know she is SO excited to start the next chapter of her life.

I’m grateful for that and equally excited. She has an incredible adventure ahead, several states away, starting a new life, meeting new people, and learning and experiencing new things. She’ll stay busy, so I know she’ll be fine. She’ll be distracted with all the right things. She’ll be discovering a new life completely separate from this one she’s spent 18 years living. And it’s all SO GOOD. It’s all SO GREAT. I honestly couldn’t be happier for her.

And that’s how this parenting gig goes.

We spend all these years raising our kids, working so hard, and sacrificing so much to give them all that they need to grow up and stand on their own. And when our job is done, there comes a time…

Our kids will eventually leave us behind.

My husband walked into the room, having heard me weeping from his upstairs office. He asked what was wrong, and I told him. “I can’t imagine life without her!” I sobbed harder, as my husband nodded and smiled.

“Oh honey, I guarantee you two will be talking on the phone about ten times a day.”

“That’s not enough! I need to see her beautiful face right in front of me. How on earth will I go so long without being able to hug her? To be WITH her?!” I was ridiculously inconsolable.

I had a moment of unraveling.

I did not see it coming. I did not know it was in there to come. Of course, I’ve been thinking about this, and honestly, quite often. Of course I’ve been feeling all kinds of sadness and anxiety and utter overwhelm about her leaving, but this? This full-on ugly cry? No clue.

And I suspect there will be more of these emotional spills as I learn to adjust to the reality that’s drawing near, that my beautiful girl will be on her own, so far away, and these days of us together are numbered. (SOBBING AGAIN.)

Here’s the thing. I don’t know who started the trend of telling everyone that teenagers become so unbearable just in time for you to want them to leave, but I have experienced the exact OPPOSITE. I’ve grown more in love with my senior every day of her life. And these teen years? They have grown us so much closer. It’s actually during these years when the very best parts of parenting occurred.

Sure, there are hard parts, but there’s always hard parts in any parenting season. Yes, there are big problems that come with our big kids, but that’s when trust is built and the relationship matures. Sure, there are mood swings and annoying things most all teens do that will whittle away our patience until we lose our shizzle at times. And of course, there’s the teaching and accountability and hard life lessons learned.

But that’s when the real growth takes place, and we watch our kids discover who they are and where they fit into this world and we're with them while they wrestle with it all. These are the years we start to walk more beside them instead of leading the way. And eventually, we start stepping back to witness the extraordinary transformation that takes place during these pivotal, challenging and wondrous years, and we watch them grow into the person they were meant to be. It’s utterly amazing.

And when this season of raising our kids ends, we get to see the fruits of all our labor. No matter where they are in life, no matter what goals they have or don’t have, our kids aren’t really kids anymore. They are adults and this shift in our relationship is GOLD. It comes with countless gifts that deepen our love with the rich layers of all the years gone by and all the memories we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

If anything, I bemoan how this goes. How dare there be this timeline where our kids grow into such smart, exciting, fun, amazing people JUST in time for us to have to say goodbye? Why is THIS the natural order of things? It’s just not fair.

Every day my girl comes downstairs, or walks through the door with “Mom, I have to tell you what happened!” Or “Mom, where are you? I need to talk.” And I'm ready to dive in, no matter what I’m doing. My work can stop, my life can wait, as much as everything possibly can, because this child of mine has become one of my greatest priorities, my greatest gifts and I’m not about to take one of these final moments for granted.

I am facing the hard truth that, in a very short time, she won’t be coming through that door to see me. She won’t be hollering in the house, asking where I am when she needs my advice right away. She won't be asking if I like her outfit, or if we can watch a show together, or grab a bite to eat, or have our long talks about allthethings that happen every single day.

Instead, she’ll be several states away, and the thought of that slays me over and over again.

A few years ago, my daughter told me that I’m her “Person.”

I have loved every minute of being her person these 18 years. I want to hold onto that role for the rest of my life.

I don’t know if I’ll still be her person when she’s off on her own, but I’m praying so.

I don’t know what happens after I say goodbye and she's on her way.

I don’t know how the next season will go, just like I had no idea about all the previous ones I’ve managed to move through so far.

But I’d like to dream of our relationship still growing every day.

I’d like to hope she will still need me in some way.

I’d like to believe that our love is so strong that we’ll never really feel apart.

I’d like to consider all the ways we’ll still love each other…

While she flies away with my heart.

Christine Carter enjoys writing about motherhood and parenting, health and wellness, marriage, friendship, and faith. You can find her work on her blog, TheMomCafe.com, and several online publications. She is the author of "Help and Hope While You're Healing: A woman's guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness" and “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World” (both sold on Amazon).

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