How Saying Goodbye is Part of the Gift of Parenting

He turns eighteen next month, and I can’t believe how time has flown.

He’s become a man as I’ve blinked the years away, and I never thought the day would come where I wished he needed me more.

I remember holding his 3-month-old body in church, and praying he’d stay asleep in my arms.

I remember the first day he ate carrots from that tiny beech-nut jar, and can still clearly picture how he had no idea how to move them to the back of his mouth to swallow–how they dripped down his chin until my silicone-coated, blue baby spoon, scooped it all up and right back in again.

I can still see him running at five, and biking at eight, and how he never thought he’d master that skateboard at all. How he spent hours in our cul-de-sac practicing the flip, and how his face lit up when he finally made it work. I can still see that smile in my mind.

I remember that little old lady at church, telling me to savor each moment, because the time was going to fly by. And to be honest, I remember how I wanted to pinch her head off for saying it. But how I smiled, and thanked her for her words anyway–convinced she’d forgotten the work it is to mother young boys, or perhaps had edited the hard or traumatic stuff right out of her mind.

As a mother of a young boy, I knew my days were long,  and I was sure they’d never fly by. [Tweet that]

I still remember the struggles through the math homework, the lessons learned from unkind kids, and the discipline that broke my heart in the many moments I had to follow through–oh how I had to follow through, time and time again.

But now, at almost eighteen, he’s so independent. He has opinions and desires of his own. He drives himself wherever He needs to go, and I’ve begun to wonder where I even fit anymore.

I know getting a driver’s license is supposed to be exciting, but for this mama it hasn’t been so. And not because he’s a bad driver, because he’s actually really good. But the thing is, I used to drive him everywhere. Car-time used to be our-time. But now, what used to be my only-time, is fading into no-time. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt.

It’s a relentless dull ache. And for me, has become a slow goodbye.

He’s become a man as I’ve blinked the years away, and I never thought the day would come where I wished he needed me more. I regret to admit that little old lady was right.

Yet even in this slow goodbye, I’m beginning to realize, the suffering is part of the gift.

[Tweet that]

God gave him to me as a gift that Christmas of 1995. And my gift to God was to love him well, and train him to love.

And in saying goodbye, the prize is almost here. This is what I’ve aimed for this whole time.

Through every meal.

Every conversation.

Every back rub.

Every moment.

The end of these times are giving birth to new kind of season.

A time of independence. Responsibility. Autonomy. And Manhood.

A time where we can still laugh, and eat, and play games. And a time where we can be friends. A time when I’ll give advice only when I’m asked, and be an advisor to help him love another woman well.

Even the pain can be a gift.

And although it hurts, God really is giving it as a gift.

Even if it doesn’t feel like a gift at all.

~Jacque Watkins

Have you launched a son into adulthood?

What advice would you give for this season?

 Photo Credit


Remember to go enter this week’s Praying for Boys Giveaway Days and join the new 5-day challenge, Covering them From Head to Toe!

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  • thegrommom

    oh, thanks for making me cry!!!! My oldest is only fourteen, but still my gut aches as I read this. Wowza. Thank you, and I am going to enjoy every car ride with my son in a new and fresh way. Much aloha for a great post–

    • Jacque Watkins

      Yes…enjoying every single car ride. Aloha friend!

  • Lisa

    My oldest son just turned 21 and is a senior in college and my youngest just turned 16 and got his license. Being their mom has been the greatest joy and I am struggling with their growing up. Your words have helped me and I will think of them when I am hiding in my bathroom :).

    • Jacque Watkins

      I am with you Lisa. WITH you…

  • Deb Anderson Weaver

    I, too, know this ache, this gift. You share your heart so well.

    Deb Weaver

    • Jacque Watkins

      Thank you Deb, my heart is with you. Eyes straining to see the gift. But just because at times I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not really a gift. Much love to you!

  • blessedw6mom

    My oldest turned 18 in Sept (she’s a girl, but still this is the hardest part of parenting!) My oldest boy is 15 and oh, how I long to hold on tight, but I know I can’t … my others are 11, 8, 5, and 18 mos. All at so many different stages … but I know where they are all heading and my heart aches. Honestly not sure I can view this as a gift just yet. I know God blessed us with each one of these children … such gifts! And in return I have poured out my life into this parenting … countless prayers and 110% of my heart and energy … but now I need to let go … and let her move half way around the globe (to Ireland). This is heart wrenching for me and oh so exciting for her. Of corse I’m thrilled for her continuing to move forward as God is calling her, she is setting such a beautiful example for her brother to follow … and I want very much to be thrilled for her … but then I go hide in my bathroom and cry. Such a strange plan parenting is.

    • Jacque Watkins

      Oh yes, how I can relate. And I’m struggling to see it as a gift too, because it is exciting and heart-wrenching at the same time. But deep down, He’s designed it this way…He gives to us for a time and then we give them as a gift to the world. May we nurture and nourish them as gifts and cry with joy as they go out to be a blessing to the world. I’m with you…and I may or may not be hiding in my bathroom too…

  • Markand Nancy Radich

    My oldest just turned 18 on December 1rst and I got tears, thinking how this portrayed exactly everything I’ve been feeling and thinking. To add to it, he has enlisted in the military. Thankfully he doesn’t fly out until the end of June. For me, unlike a lot of Moms, I know the exact date my baby bird is flying away from the nest, so I am packing as much love and fun into these last days as possible. In fact, in a little less than 2 weeks, I’m arranging for him to do a food challenge he wants to do at a restraunt here, and am secretly inviting friends to come cheer him on…… On his birthday, we took him out to breakfast and he ate 12 pancakes, 2 eggs, and a plate sized slice of ham (along with some orange juice). So he is into food challenges right now. However, THIS challenge involves insanely hot buffalo wings (that have habenero peppers). I’m stopping to get some pepto before hand…….and milk……..lots of milk……maybe some imodium too……lol But it’s going to be a memory he can take to basic training. I’m praising God for giving him one of the safer jobs in the military. He will basically be an IT person for the military…..computers, etc. He has to help keep all those systems running. But yes, where did the time go? I told a friend earlier today that I felt like I stepped into one of those time warp machines when he was a baby, and instantly arrived at his 18th birthday. It seemed to go by literally that fast. We gave him a Patriot’s Bible for his birthday (along with some other things) and he was SOOOOO excited about that Bible, that I know, by the grace of God alone…..I did at least a couple things right. : D Trust me, I plan on calling every nearby chaplain and pastors who are near whatever bases he is at to urge them to bug the crud out of him and invite him to EVERYTHING……lol I saw what the military did to my brother’s faith, and being that we came from a secular home, he didn’t have a proactive Momma praying on the other end, nor one enlisting pastors and chaplains to harass him…….lol (In a good way, of coarse) I’m prayerful he will have his first station (other than basic and AIT) here. Not because he will be close to me (although that’s a bonus), but because he has built great relationships with many men in our church that can come along side of him for accountability, encouragement, etc. : D Indeed, you blink……..and it’s gone. I have three more sons I’m holding just a little tighter now. :)

    • Jacque Watkins

      Sending much love and prayers for your incredible son as he serves our country, and for your mama heart…as you, with open hands, release him to fly! xo

      • Markand Nancy Radich

        Thank you so much for your prayers. :) He’s truly a great kid. I have been involved in youth ministry (especially with young girls…….God gave me other daughters….lol), and I often have teen girls at my house. They know they have to dress conservatively (I do have FOUR boys, after all, and three of them are TEENS lol) to be in my house. They always oooohhhh and awwww when they find out my 18 year old has never kissed a girl and hasn’t even had a girlfriend. By choice. He’s waiting till his wedding day to kiss. :) Hoping he is strong and holds to his convictions when he’s away in the military. Definitely proud… :)

  • Shonda Knowlton

    My heart is just aching thinking about this some day. I have a 5 year old son who is the star of my heart! I have been through so much with him. Right now he just hangs all over me and I am treasuring it. I know it won’t be forever that he his with me. It’s hard to think about that he will be going off somewhere someday. I’m doing all I can to give him the foundation of God in his life. Lots of prayer.

    • Jacque Watkins

      Yes! So many hugs and cuddles and seized moments. I, too, and purposing to do that with my littler ones. And this releasing? It’s a privilege. An honor to have loved well, and transition into continuing to love in a different way, but no less important. In the releasing we give thanks for what has been, and look forward to the new that is to come. xo

  • Sara

    I just sent my son away to the opposite side of the U.S. It happened so quickly but he made this decision. I had to let him go. I had to trust that I provided him with what he needed. I was depressed. More so than I thought I would be. My heart ached and tears streamed down my cheeks. If I didn’t have God as my backup I think I would have had a more difficult time. It is painful to let them go and to know they are separate from you – with their own ideas and ways of living BUT that is the blessing of children don’t you think? They are part of you but NOT you which can help change their WORLD.

    • Jacque Watkins

      Oh Sara, it caught me a bit by surprise too! I’m not sure why I didn’t realize the driver’s license was going to change so many things, but it has, and my heart wasn’t prepared. But I am learning. It is painful, but you are right. Through loving well, we become the blessing as our children help to change their world. Yes!