The time has come; I can’t believe it’s already here. There are just a few days left before my full nest will become a partially-full nest. My middle son is leaving for college soon. He will be hours and many miles away from me. And I am supposed to be happy about it.

I am happy, really — happy for him. This will be an experience for him like no other in life. It will be a chance for him to stretch his wings, discover new things, and become more independent. He will be making the most of his own decisions and discerning how to make his way in the world. This is what we raise them to do, right? But it isn’t easy.

I don’t want to be one of those moms. You know the type. She can’t live without her children around her all the time. She has to assist with every decision her children make. She doesn’t ever let them cut the apron strings, but instead smothers them with her care. Basically her description mirrors mothers of toddlers, probably because it’s pretty accurate for my parenting of that age.

I’ve always loved being a mom, but there were days when I thought I would suffocate from the constant attachment with my kids. I believe the term was busy boys at the time. Oh yes, I had three very busy boys. They loved to climb and jump and investigate and crash into things. They were adventurous and competitive and full of energy. And I was exhausted trying to keep up with them.

I remember one day at church when I was completely spent. We were leaving after a full morning where there had once again been challenges in one son’s class. I was having trouble keeping both of their sticky hands in mine as we ventured out the door to make it home to lunch, naptime, and relative peace. I was in survival mode. The mom of one of the teenagers in our youth group paused to watch us and to open the door as we exited. She said to me, “It’s so much easier when they are that age.” I was flabbergasted at her words and stopped in my tracks. I looked at her like she had grown horns and possibly lost her mind. Were her children EVER pre-schoolers? I asked her what she meant, and her reply stays with me still today. “You always know where they are. You never have to wonder whose car they will get into, or when they will get home at night.” I had to hide her explanation in my heart, realizing that she was speaking truth to me from her own experiences. I remember thinking briefly that every age must have its own challenges.

And then gradually, things evolved. I could trust the boys to play without my constant attention. I could leave the room knowing that if something out-of-order occurred, one of them would tell on the other. I was finally able to leave them in a class at church and not see them again until service was actually over.

And things continued to change. The older two have grown into well-adjusted, intelligent, mature young men and I still have a few years left with the youngest. It has been amazing to watch them make good decisions and wise choices while they have been testing their footing both inside and outside of the nest. And now the nest will never be the same.

I have a choice in front of me. I can mourn and lament and wallow in the changes, or I can pray and hope and speak blessings over them about the things that will come. I want my sons to know how proud they have made us as parents. I want them to know that we trust them to continue to make wise choices and that we will always be available if they need our guidance. I want them to know that God goes before them to make the way, and that he won’t leave them alone – ever (Deuteronomy 31:8). I want them to discover for themselves that what we have tried to instill in them is trustworthy and true. And I want them to live a life full of blessing.

I know that my sons’ lives won’t always be easy. There will be challenges and difficulties to walk through, for sure. But there is so much hope on the horizon. As parents, we have done the best we’ve known how to do, and now it is time to let them test it out. And it’s time for me to step back and do more watching than instructing, more praying than talking, and more trusting than directing. It’s time to let them leave the nest.

Once again I am reminded that every stage of life has its own challenges, and that God will also be with me as we walk through them. My children are tucked inside both my heart and God’s. They will always be my boys, and I will always be proud to be their mom.