On a warm fall day, I stood on the sidelines of my daughter’s cross-country race, cheering her on as she pushed hard to the finish line. I love watching her run, and it’s been fun for me to see her starting to make friendships on her first high school team.
After the race, I went over to congratulate her and wondered how long I should stand beside her. Was it okay for me to walk back to the water stand with her and a couple girls from the team? I’m well aware of the warnings of being a helicopter mom, but my daughter has always welcomed my presence.
She’s my oldest of four. In some ways, I feel like we’ve grown up together — I’ve learned what it means to be a mom as she’s grown into a young woman. We spent four years homeschooling, which gave us extra bonding time together. She’s the kid who still wants to run errands with me, go for a jog with me, and help me in the kitchen. She’s the daughter who has become a friend. Perhaps this is why I felt unprepared for her response when I asked if she was ready to go home after the race.
A Chapter Closes
“Oh, Mom, the girls and I are going to go cheer on the boys’ cross-country team. But it’s going to be thirty more minutes. You don’t have to wait around for me,” she sweetly said. “You can go ahead and leave, and I’ll ride back on the bus with the team.” She gave me a smile, and I realized that was my cue to leave.
“Oh, okay. If you’re sure — ”
“I’m sure, Mom. I’ll text you when I’m back at the school.”
I watched her walk off over the hill, laughing and chattering away with her new teammates. And I walked back to the car alone.
At that moment, I felt like one chapter was closing. A mix of emotions came over me, from joy at seeing her becoming more independent and making new friends, to sadness at realizing she was pulling away from me.
I got in the car and turned on the radio to hear a country song that further pulled at my heartstrings and feelings of nostalgia. I wiped away a few tears as I called my husband to let him know I was on my way home alone. Between a few sniffles, I said, “She ran great. But I’m coming home by myself. She wanted to ride the bus back to school with the team.” I could hear my husband smiling through the receiver.
“Was that hard for you?” he asked.
“Maybe.” Which meant yes. Sniffle. “Our little girl is growing up.”
As our children begin to spread their wings, how should we as parents respond? How do we provide the right balance of protection, guidance, and increased independence? How do we graciously and joyfully let them learn to fly, without hovering over them like helicopters?
My husband and I are trying to stay grounded with a few simple tethers.
The truth of God’s word anchors us during the changing tides of the teenage years. As my heart experiences a mixture of nostalgia and joy, Scripture provides the right perspective. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” There’s a time for our children to be right by our side in the everyday of life, but there’s also a time for parents to step back and allow our children more independence and freedom.
Our kids’ teen years shouldn’t be a time of fear, but a time of trust. As we’ve sought to diligently teach our kids biblical truth (Deuteronomy 6:6–9), now is the time to believe that those same statutes are giving our daughter wisdom and discernment when she’s out of our reach.
With each new endeavor or step away from home, we have an opportunity to trust that God is working in our teen’s life, maybe even in ways that we can’t see.
As our daughter’s calendar becomes more crowded, I’ve realized the importance of seizing every opportunity I have to engage with her. Car rides to and from practice provide quiet moments to have one-on-one conversations about her day. Inviting her friends over to our house (and providing food!) is a way for us to learn more about the relationships that are important to her. Going to her games, concerts, and events lets her know we’re her biggest fans.
Engaging in our teen’s world tells them they’re valuable to us and allows us to continue speaking into their lives in appropriate ways.
In the midst of a season of change, countless concerns can flood a parent’s mind. Maybe your child is far from Jesus, and your heart is weighed down with despair. Our heavenly Father knows our needs before we ask (Matthew 6:32) and is shepherding us even as we shepherd our kids (Psalm 23:1). He hears us, cares for us, and delights when we bring our worries to him (1 Peter 5:7).
We continue to bring our specific requests for our children to God, trusting that as we ask, seek, and knock, he will answer with good in return (Luke 11:9–13). Jon Bloom suggests some specific prayers for our kids in his excellent article “Seven Things to Pray for Your Children.”
Under God’s Wings
Our kids’ teenage years are filled with change. Instead of wallowing in sadness at the loss of their childhood, be grateful for your sweet memories, and look to the future with joyful anticipation. The same God who gave you this precious child is guiding them to the path of adulthood.
As our children begin to spread their wings, we can find refuge under the wings of our loving God (Psalm 36:7).