This Saturday night I will stand on my son’s home field. It is not the little concrete courtyard in China or the magical pitch beside our Thai dream house. The University of Mary Hardin Baylor has become home for Isaiah, and it is their field that will provide a parting gift to the me who was a parent of children.
Our first daughter left home as a pioneer. Hannah led our missionary family in the painful re-entry back to our sending culture. From a distance we tried to parent with love and advice as she developed her own identity. Seeing her writing published and praised by major poets was a triumph of reassurance. Hannah left home like an eaglet tumbling out of the nest, then finding her wings at Baylor and continuing to soar into marriage and teaching and growing a family.
Sophie followed Hannah but in her own rhythm. Reinventing herself more than once she kept us guessing. A complex kid growing in an empowered and diverse setting like Rice was exciting like a well-written mystery. Sophie became “Sofi” working through a myriad of interests and perspectives. Sports, languages, adventures, academics, travels, connections with rich and poor; so many elements resisted becoming the defining theme. Now she contributes to HIV research, working with professionals in the medical center and patients in a local clinic, all with a genuine interest and eagerness to learn. Though still a mystery, Sofi is her own woman.
This Saturday is a farewell to our phase of parenting children even though all three of our children are adults. Isaiah is a man, not a boy. He has been for some time. Initially he developed his college connections through soccer, but when Karla introduced herself to a student as “the mother of Isaiah” she was quickly informed “Everyone knows Isaiah!”. Our son took his interests and developed them beyond anything we taught him, just as his sisters did before him.
I am approaching Saturday’s farewell as more about my own letting go than a releasing for anyone else. The years of coaching and cheering the kids through life was always most public and concrete through soccer. But it was not ultimately about the game. Loving children enough to help them build their self-assuredness, alternately challenging and affirming them, is what it means to parent kids. This Saturday night will not be an end to parenting. Our parenting will continue to our adult children, but it still is an end of an era. The moment that marks the end of the most meaningful work of my life so far is near. How will I cope?That part is easy. On Sunday Hannah and her husband Andrew will reveal the name of our first grandchild. The end is near. The beginning is coming!