We left my firstborn standing alone on the sidewalk in a new city as we pulled out of the parking lot.
Eyes fixed on the rear view mirror like a scientist looking through a microscope; I watch her silhouette fade into a crowd of strangers. Returning to a partially empty dorm room, she will navigate a new season by herself.
Turning at the traffic light, onto the highway, I process the past 48 hours — moving furniture, cleaning her dorm room, sweating through shirts in suffocating heat, staying an extra day in the hotel when her roommate doesn’t show up.
I’m not sure if I’m more stunned by my lack of emotion, the circumstances or the way she’s so calm about all of it.
Looking back, I’ve found most of parenting to be like this: surprising, humbling and a magnifier on my lack of trust.
Four hours later, walking into our empty house, I feel the void of her absence and the tears are unleashed. I realize how God has been schooling me in letting go since she took her first breath.
At age two, she sat at a low round table for hours in the kitchen. Glue, scissors, paper and markers were her favorite companions while watching Blue Clues and sucking on a pacifier. In those early years, I scoured craft books like a theologian looking for truth. Plastic tubs of projects in our storage space are now proof.
When there wasn’t enough money for art programs in the schools were she was a student, we found artists in the churches we attended. Private lessons and art workshops became familiar summertime activities. Each of those experiences providing stepping stones of preparation.
More than sadness, the tears are confirmation of the way God is gloriously orchestrating her future. But I couldn’t always see it. I was too busy making sure she was happy.
I wanted her to experience a wide range of activities – violin, viola, clarinet and horse backing riding were a few piquing her interest. All the while, she rarely sat down on the couch without a pen to doodle or a computer to create. Instead of passion, I translated a closet in our house dedicated to art supplies as an aimless hobby.
As parents, we can easily overlook the random everyday preoccupations as common to humanity when God is giving us hints to our child’s destiny.
A few days later I receive a text message, pictures of the project assigned by her professor. She’s asking her first art teacher for critique and I’m amazed by the raw talent.
Without a portfolio of artwork she is intimidated by the more broad experience of peers. But surprise and revelation of a God-given gift comes with high marks and glowing encouragement.
“Mom, I just want you to know I feel really comfortable here, I’ve never been nervous about the newness. I was more nervous walking into my classes in high school,” she admits on the phone later.
Our kids are never alone. Sometimes it takes looking in the rear view mirror to notice.