We Raise Our Kids to Leave

It’s that time of year when a lot of parents are preparing for their children to leave. And regardless if it’s kindergarten or college, the emotions are the same. We’re sending someone we love out into the world—a world that doesn’t seem love them like we do. But in both the sadness and excitement, it’s important for us to remember that we raise our kids to leave.

When my son, Matthew, Jr., was born, my best friend sent me a song by Brad Paisley called, Anything Like Me. He attached a note that said, “Congrats, Senior.” The song tells the story of a dad who finds out that his first child is going to be a boy. I listened to the words and tears began streaming down my face. Although he was only a week old at the time, my son’s life flashed before my eyes.

Toward the end of the song, the lyrics share a reminiscent description of what it’s like when our kids leave:

“He’s gonna love me and hate me along the way
Years are gonna fly by I already dread the day

He’s gonna hug his momma, he’s gonna shake my hand
He’s gonna act like he can’t wait to leave

But as he drives out
He’ll cry his eyes out
If he’s anything like me”

Below are a few thoughts on preparing our kids to leave.

The First Day of School

Whether it’s fear or sadness or sheer joy, it’s an interesting thing to watch your kids grow up. And each year, the first day of school symbolizes the ongoing narrative that, no matter how much we want to, we can’t stop time.

My wife and I have stayed busy this summer to avoid the reality that our oldest will finally begin public school. Every time I bring it up, my wife changes the subject because she’s just not quite ready to let him go. Neither am I.

There’s an innocence in his six-year-old eyes that will be lost once he steps out into the world on his own—words and actions and conversations that we have shielded from his young mind that he’ll now have to experience. We would rather avoid bullies and broken hearts and bad grades, but that’s not how this works. If we hold those we love too tightly, we actually cripple the growth they’re supposed to experience.

It’s hard to let go, but letting go is what we were created to do. We are to let go of them and they are to let go of us. The sooner we realize and empower that, the healthier our relationship becomes.

We Raise Our Kids to Leave

No matter the emotions, we raise our kids to leave. As much as we think that they’re our kids, they’re not—they’re God’s kids first. We have the privilege of being their parents.

How incredibly selfish of us to keep our kids’ awesomeness locked away in the confines of our house and our protection. The world needs our kids’ awesome. Your kid has something amazing to share with the world. Don’t hoard it for yourself. Cultivate it, grow it, and send it out.

Your job as a parent isn’t to protect your kids from the world, but rather to prepare them for it and encourage them to make it better. The best way to fight bullies and broken hearts and bad grades isn’t to avoid them, it’s to face them head on. That’s needed preparation.

Loving our kids well means allowing them the freedom to take their own steps.

Anything short of that isn’t love at all.

Believe and Leave

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad watching my kids grow up. But I’m choosing to forego that sadness for a different emotion. I’m going to choose joy. I’m excited for my kids and I’m ready for them to share their brilliance with the world. The world needs it.

Legendary NC State coach, Jim Valvano, said:

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”

The point is, believe in your kids.

Then, let them leave.


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3 Responses to We Raise Our Kids to Leave

  1. Jill Barlow August 26, 2016 at 8:28 am #

    My children are all teenagers. (18, 16, 14) I wish someone would have talked to me about the seasons they all go through. I am closer to mine leaving now than I ever was. It’s not easy but it’s so worth it. Right now, my middle son does hate me. He’s 16 and in that rebellious stage where I’m the dumb mom who knows nothing. I didn’t experience this with my older son, and we are fairly close. I know that one day, my middle son will look back on this time and regret his behavior..but it’s something he has to deal with. I love being a mom! It was my calling in life. You seem to be a great dad and your wife seems to be an awesome mom. You two are blessed with your four. I pray MJ enjoys kindergarten.

  2. Jon Stallings August 31, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    With two boys of my own, now young men it is tough to watch them fly own their own. But thankful despite my failings they turned out OK – Loved your statement – “The truth is, the world needs our kids’ awesome.”


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