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What I Learned When My Child Moved Away

March 15, 2018 by May Patterson (Alabama)

I held on to my son until he whispered, “Mom, I’ve got to go.” Emptiness coursed through my heart as I watched him drive away. After my son Bryant graduated from college last spring, he took a videography job in Montana—two thousand miles away from home—and while I was truly happy for him, I was not so happy for me. Montana sounded so inaccessible; he might as well have moved to China. Weekend visits were impossible. I didn’t know a single person who lived there. Who could he call if he needed someone?  

His truck was packed with an old chest, camera equipment, camping gear and a grilled turkey sandwich with pimento cheese. Driving across the country alone was dangerous. I wondered: How can I let him go? Have we prepared him well enough? What if he never moves back home, again? I felt an inward chill as I realized that every state he crossed would be another state lying between us.  

When your child moves away, you learn hard lessons that you really don’t want to learn. But as time goes by, I’ve adjusted better than I expected. Here are four things I’ve learned:  

  • To cut the apron strings. Promoting independence instead of dependence is crucial because one day, we may not be around. Our job is to get our child ready to stand on his own—to not need us, so much. And yet sometimes this feels horribly wrong, doesn’t it? Refusing to cut the apron strings can actually keep my son from reaching his full potential. I don’t want to do that, but it’s hard to let go.
  • To draw a boundary. My son’s life isn’t my life—sometimes the line can get blurry for me. Bryant’s life doesn’t represent me, or my plans, or even my preferences. It represents his. He has the right to choose where and how he will live. He no longer has to answer to me, but he does have to answer to God. This takes the pressure off of me and off of our relationship.
  • To move on. There are still a lot of meaningful things for me to do. With God’s help, I’m slowly recreating my life: writing, speaking, serving and learning a bunch of new things in the process. Slowly, the gaping holes of my empty nest are patching up. I’ve had to change the way I spend my days and weekends—but it’s okay. I’m choosing to embrace the future instead of getting stuck in the past. Actually, I’ve had to do this in other seasons of change—this one is no different—it’s just a little more painful.
  • To draw closer to God. Really close. Maybe our different seasons are designed to draw us closer to the Lord’s heart. Why? Because that’s the place where miracles occur. It’s where we are most alive. Being in the presence of His love, greatness and excellence rubs off on us.

Has your child recently left you, too? Gone to college? Just Married? Moved to Montana (or some other distant place)? 

Lava Lake near Bozeman, MT on my first visit

I understand how you feel. Don’t fight it. Let go by surrendering to life’s new season. The worst thing we can do is try to keep our lives exactly the same. Cling to the One who can help you through change. Jesus said, “If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.” Luke 17:33-34 MSG







May Patterson, author of the book, Seeking a Familiar Face, began writing in response to God’s grace. And by His grace, she has written for magazines such as Focus on the Family and Upper Room, and is a sought-after public speaker. She has a great love for the outdoors, travel and blogging at maypatterson.com.


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