Milestones aren’t always fun…..sometimes they are hard and sad and heartbreaking and exciting and joyful and victorious all at once. We have had some milestones in our house over the last two weeks…..first Kade started the second grade, I took Hannah to school at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and she turned 19 on her first day of College. For me all of these various emotions are just plain exhausting!! I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of change…..I will avoid it at all costs. But let’s face it, reality has shown me over the years that whether I like change or not it is going to happen to all of us. A few years ago I posted about Roots and Wings when Hannah went on a trip out of the country as an 8th grader and I faced some anxiety about it. I remembered this sign in my Aunt Linda's house: “Two gifts that we give to our children are roots and wings”….it has always made a huge impression in my life, especially as I learned this week that my cousin gave it to my Aunt as a gift when she graduated from High School.I can’t help but remember this day 19 years ago….I held this precious baby girl in my arms and had so many emotions raging through my head, heart and body. Mainly absolute terror! Here was this precious little baby, so innocent and new and fresh; how in the world were I and her father supposed to protect her, train her, raise her, love her, discipline her for 19 years until she was on her own? I remember bringing Hannah home and saying to myself ”What were they thinking at the hospital? Why in the world would they send this new life home with me when I have no idea what I am doing?!” I think back to taking her to a picnic on Labor Day weekend when she was two days old and had some older ladies scold me for having her out so soon (meanwhile my own mother was more concerned with my own physical well-being than my baby’s because “babies are so resilient”…that’s a mother for you). I remember the first time that I put her in a car seat for the 30 minute car ride back to Cody for her first well-baby check and forgot to buckle her into the car. I bawled to my mother for 45 minutes, sure that someone would want to take her away from me! I remember the weeks of trying to nurse her and failing miserably…..literally miserable (some of you Mamas know exactly what I am talking about!), thinking that I was a complete failure as a mother. And those thoughts didn’t leave through the years, those feelings of failure continued to plague me for 19 years (especially during those super fun pre-teen and teenage years when makeup and boys and curfews were involved); but here is the thing….these 19 years have also been filled with unbelievable joy and fulfillment and contentment and blessing in being Hannah MacCarrie Fraley’s mother. Not only do I remember all of those feelings of fear and failure, I remember looking into those deep blue eyes and thinking “This….this is what I was born to do. I was born to be her mother.” And if God had intended for Hannah to be Mike’s and my child, then He certainly has equipped us all of these years. Including these past few days when all of the years and love and emotion that Mike and I have invested in our girl comes down to the end of the road this well traveled road....well not really the end of the road, we all know that she will still be calling for advice and will still need the support and love of her parents; but our role as her parents has drastically changed.
I have learned a few things as I have prepared to take Hannah to college. First of all, no matter how well we prepare ourselves as parents, we are never really prepared! If we do our job right, they are prepared, but we aren’t. Maybe I’m speaking more as a mother of a first child leaving for college…..no matter how much I prayed and read and spoke to Mike and myself about how we were ready…..I was not ready to say goodbye…..and I really do think that that is ok…..as long as it doesn’t get weird. There is an appropriate sadness that I think is ok to go through. When I took Hannah to school…four hours away….I hung around for a few days. Some of my friends didn’t make the trek to college, some stayed for just that day, some stayed for longer. I admit that because Hannah’s first day of college was also her birthday I was prepared to stay for a week! But common sense (and my husband along with a good friend) suggested otherwise. Regardless….it’s all ok! If we are sensitive to our kids that are going to college we will know how long they need us, and if they are ready to kick us out, or if they want us to hang around for awhile….it’s all ok! I know that for Hannah and I, we were both were comfortable with her experience in moving into the dorms, making new friends as well as catching up with old friends. I had no doubt that she was just fine where she was and I saw God’s Hand in so much of this new transition. And yet we weren’t ready to say goodbye for a few days. The fact of the matter is that Hannah and I actually love one another’s company! So when I finally left, it was after spending some time with a precious young lady that I truly and thoroughly love being with and appreciate and consider a friend and confidant ….. not in fear or anxiety of how she would survive and cope without her father and I; but in confidence that God, Mike and I had prepared her for this next phase of her journey. And although Hannah was not ready for me to leave, she wasn’t fearful or anxious, she was just sad to see her Mom go.
God has been so good at directing and preparing us for this transition. I think that Pastor William and Pastor Stephen’s sermons the past few weeks on “Wesley on Money” has actually prepared me to let my girl go. I know it sounds a little off topic to talk about our kids leaving for College in terms of how we are supposed to use our gifts and money….and yet aren’t our children our greatest gifts? This sermon series has prepared me to let my girl go (as well as convicting me on how I view our finances). As I said today in a Facebook Post to Hannah Mac on her Birthday…..”Happy Birthday to my Sunshine Girl!! For 19 years you have brought love and laughter, music and beauty, into our lives. It’s so hard that we are celebrating YOU from a distance, but God never intended for us to keep all of that sunshine to ourselves….He wants you to spread it around!” Hannah is on loan to Mike and I, and He has great plans for her life (Jeremiah 29:11); we were never intended to keep her all to ourselves. And because of that I have no fear…..just sadness at the change in our family dynamics as I will enjoy a really great cup of coffee and quiet time without my girl…..but I am praying that as she ventures on her own she will be blessed by her very own really great cup of coffee and quiet time at UW!! She has very deep roots and therefore is ready to fly!
Jana M. Fraley“Teach me, Oh Lord, to follow Your decrees.” PsaLm 119:33