Parenting: One Long Goodbye

Last weekend I left my oldest child, who is 10 years old, in the hands of a 21 year old college student and a bunch of his buddies out in the boonies of East Texas. I will return tomorrow to retrieve my boy after a week of missing him, counting the days with his younger siblings, and doing without his help, his smile, his constant thoughtful questions.

This was the first time he’s been away from us for any length of time, but my risk was a calculated one. He’s having the time of his life at Pine Cove, a Christian camp for families and youth–where I worked during my own college summers oh so many years ago. We have a history, you could say. And because of that, they have my trust.

But no matter how secure he is at camp, letting go is hard, I’m learning. Parenting is hard–something I’ve known since my first round of nightly feedings. But those days of sleep deprivation and exhaustion (which are only a few months in my rearview, as I also have a one-year-old) only serve as preparation for the longer process of training up a child so he can leave me as a mature, confident, competent, Christ-following young man.

(Did I just say I was training him to LEAVE ME??? Sigh.)

The Bible has a lot to say about parenting, and I certainly can’t cover it all in this post. But my favorite one that seems to apply from year one to year 20-something is Deuteronomy 6:6-7:

“These commandments that i give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

In other words, let God’s Word so infiltrate your heart that it overflows into your conversations and daily interactions with your children. There is no separation of sacred and secular–God’s truth applies to all of it. Jesus desires every corner of our lives. We can’t let Sunday talk sound completely different from Monday through Saturday talk.

My son asks intelligent, creative questions. I sometimes am stumped for an immediate answer. Some mommy friends and I recently were joking that the Deuteronomy phrase “when you walk along the road” could be reworded for our experiences as “when you drive down the road.” We have the most interesting spiritual discussions in our car more than anywhere else!

Where do you talk about God things with your kids? How often do you discuss Jesus during the school week? Are you taking time to pray for, and with, your kids? Is your home (or car) a safe place for them to ask spiritual questions?

I can’t wait for tomorrow morning when I get to see my boy again. And I’m looking forward to the drive home with him.

Kelley Mathews (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) has written and edited for the Christian market for more than 20 years. Currently a writer for RightNow Media, she lives in North Texas with her husband and their four children. She has partnered with Sue Edwards to coauthor Mixed Ministry, Womenโ€™s Retreats, Leading Women Who Wound, Organic Ministry to Women, and 40 Questions about Women in Ministry. Find her books and blog at KelleyMathews.com.


  • Sophia Marie

    It sounds like a wonderful

    It sounds like a wonderful experience and probably will be for your son.  With a little one of my own just under a year old, I am having problems picturing letting him stay overnight anywhere with 20-year old boys.  Given all the craziness with the Boy Scouts and kids coaches and priests, I can't help but be fearful of putting him in this situation one day.

    Did you have any of these same concerns?  If so, how did you get comfortable?

    • Kelley Mathews

      Getting comfortable


      Thanks for your comment. My comfort level with Pine Cove has everything to do with my experience there on staff back in college, and knowing the executive staff there now. Its reputation is exemplary, and they have an open policy on how they hire and screen counselors. I honestly never considered any of the issues you brought up. So when it's time for your little guy to have a camp experience, find a place with a long and sterling reputation that will keep open communication with you as a concerned parent.


      Blessings to you!

  • Sharifa Stevens

    I started hyperventilating

    I started hyperventilating when I read you first two sentences. :o) I don't want him to leave yet! My son turns 1 this month, so he's not headed anywhere yet.

    But – he's been leaving me since the day of his birth; delivery, weaning, crawling, walking – all these are healthy steps toward autonomy and growth. He needs me less and less each day – but I hope that need is replaced by love, trust, and obedience, and ultimately, honor and friendship when he is an adult.

    I believe that God is preparing me as much as I am preparing my little one to be a mature follower of Jesus. Letting go of control is a huge tool in the Father's hand in molding me.

    I love this line of yours: "We can't let Sunday talk sound completely different from Monday through Saturday talk."


    • Kelley Mathews

      Do Not Panic! Do Not Panic! ๐Ÿ˜‰


      Thanks for your response! You mommies with little onlies understandably have a tough time with the thought of letting go. But you've obviously been observing and tucking away in your heart (a la Mary) the way moms of older kids have handled the transitions. You'll do fine! Another friend of mine commented on this post, but in FB, with a similar thought on how much parenting teaches the parent. Isn't that the truth!? If I've learned nothing else, it's that control is an illusion. These precious souls were never mine to keep. But oh how I'm enjoying them for this little while!

      I pray the same for you ๐Ÿ™‚