Firstborn and I in Idaho

How to let your firstborn go

Our firstborn has two months of high school left.  How will I let him go?

Dirt bike trip in Nevada

I don’t know.

What is happening to my heart and how did time pass so quickly?

C.S. Lewis had interesting thoughts on time.  I believe he suggested that since we can’t quite grasp the passing of time it is a proof that we were made for the eternal.  How many times have we said or heard, “I can’t believe how time flies”? Or, “time passes more quickly the older we get”?  We can’t get a grip on it.  I have been guilty of saying recently,

“Time, please slow down”.

As if that is even possible!

Concerning that idea, C.S. Lewis said:

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

Kate Hiller "How to let firstborn go"

Our firstborn, JH, seems to have been speeding toward adulthood and leaving us since age 11.  He was 11 when My Man took him to Peru and into the Amazon for over a month of mission work and travel.  It was hard enough saying goodbye before they left…with the knowledge of the dangerous voyage ahead of them…six days of travel into the deep of the jungle…would he get yellow fever?!

But what I didn’t know, was that I was saying goodbye to my boy-child—forever!  Or I imagine I would have clung to him for dear life, refusing to let him go and making quite the scene.  Is that what will happen in just a few months?  When he wrenches my heart out?

Does he even remember all the nights I sang hymns with him before he went to sleep?

Into the Amazon

The people down there told me that my boy literally came out of the jungle a few inches taller

There were several situations on that trip that facilitated that “change”.  Perhaps the biggest incident was when my husband got deathly ill after they were back from the jungle.  JH had to navigate through town and exchange money before hiring a van to take him, alone, to a neighboring town.  No wonder he came back a man.  He later was responsible for getting his sick dad and all their gear through the airports to get home.

It was an official rite of passage…maybe all boys need to have one.

Son and dirt bike in desert

Becoming a man is one of the goals, after all

There was no putting on the brakes after that—full speed ahead into adulthood.  As the clock ticks I comfort myself by reminiscing….

Fishing with son in Nevada

JH was my buddy in those early, tough years

In my last post I shared about My Man going to Baja, after an argument, while I ran home to my grandparents.  We survived that separation, reconciled and persevered.  His work picked back up and I had a lot of solitude to process my “new life”.

He was off working for days at a time…no conflict…perfect!

While he worked I wandered, a lot—over the windswept, bald hills surrounding our trailer.  Wandering is still one of my favorite past times. It must be the main reason I feel akin to the young ladies in the Jane Austen books and, also, to Jane in Jane Eyre.  The young ladies in those books are always out meandering through the countryside, lost in thought.

Climbing Mt. Shasta with firstborn

Wander with me

Something else occupied my thoughts: we were expecting our first child and I was thrilled!

For My Man, though, thoughts of a baby and his wife expanding were not appealing.  Would he lose his adventurous life forever?!!!!

He enjoys kids from about age eighteen months and up—or after they are potty trained—and at that point, he goes above and beyond with parenting.  dad and son

But pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and diapers all accosted his mind with disgusting images and smells.  I was the opposite.  I was made for that stage of life.

So I wandered the hills, relishing in the expansion and expectation.

Son with fish in Baja

It all exceeded my expectations.  JH was beautiful and even My Man was in awe.  Not that his perspective changed—no diaper changing for him and he was still going to mostly hold out for those older years!

I didn’t mind the diaper duty; I believe in the division of labor.  I threw myself into all the tasks of caring for that amazing creation of God—our son.  Completely.  I read books to him starting at about age day 2. I still know them by heart—“A is for Apple, B is for bed…”(Richard Scarry was our friend).

It was acceptable to put all my energy into mothering, right? What a noble thing!  But wait, what about not being kid-centric?  Well, in that first year, my mothering instincts put me into kid-centric overdrive—forgetting all about My Man’s needs.

Mom and firstborn son

We were having fun

Wasn’t I naturally a parenting expert now?  I knew what was best for our son, right? Did I really need my husband’s wisdom?  Surely, that hard head of mine was a stronghold for everything “parenting”.

I’m sure that you can imagine this created more tension in our marriage.  Just because My Man wasn’t all warm and fuzzy about a newborn didn’t mean that he didn’t care about him.  He cared with a wisdom and a depth far beyond the baby’s basic needs.

I ignored the tension and My Man, losing myself in the la-la land of reading books and wandering the hills with the baby strapped to me—not thinking very far into the future.

Not thinking that before I could even imagine he would be growing up and extracting himself from my ties

Part of me, the disproportionately small logical side, has been letting go for years—as he left for the Amazon jungle, on many fast and furious Baja runs with My Man, driving to Alaska with a complete stranger, etc.  We summited Mt. Shasta with him in a day when he was twelve—wondering if he was going to fall asleep on his feet and plummet to his death.

I remember the difficult nights leading up to those adventurous excursions—the nights before were the worst.  Once I waved goodbye I surprisingly had complete peace.

Firstborn in Nepal

He walked out of my “control”—and into God’s

And that is where the peace will be—passing him with confidence into the hands of our heavenly Father. We have done our best with him.  We prayed our way through parenting him and prayed for God to fix the foolish mistakes we have made.

My frequent prayer JH’s whole life has been:

“God, please stand in the gaps.”

My Man and I did our best to follow a biblical mandate for parents, teaching our children God’s Word, found in Deuteronomy 11:19:

“You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

I thankfully learned to follow my husband’s lead in raising our son and I learned that it wasn’t best to be idolizing that boy.  I’m really not idolizing him now with all these pictures….

Trusting God’s plan and trusting My Man were things I have learned over time.  In my next post I’ll continue with the tangles, twists and turns leading up to those acts of submission.  Eventually, I’ll also highlight our other two amazing children.  Despite what they think, JH is not my favorite…just in certain moments….

How do we let our children go?

My “big plan” to let him go is to stay rooted in God’s Word—my solid rock.  There might be some dark nights ahead in anticipation, but God always brings the dawn and His peace.

God made children to grow up into adults, period. That must be God’s best for them. They have to have their own journey with mistakes and triumphs; we do our best while they’re ours, apologize and learn from mistakes, and then entrust them into God’s care.

I can’t promise there won’t be drama and tears,  that is part of my M.O.

special men

(In the presence of godly men)

Our kids will have their “own line to cut”, in firefighting terms, and while I still have breath I will have my ability to pray for them.

C.S. Lewis held tight to God’s promises as well,

“There are far far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

I choked back sobs on JH’s sixteenth birthday, reading Ann Voskamp’s beautiful words in that letter to her son.  I printed it for JH, but I’m not sure he read it.  Maybe he will read this:

I trust God’s plan for you, Son, and He gives me a peace that surpasses all of my human understanding.  Never stop seeking him.

Kate's fire

12 thoughts on “How to let your firstborn go

  1. I’m a half generation ahead of you. But I’m pretty sure it was just yesterday when my firstborn went off to college. I’m the opposite of you, in that I’m happily encouraging them on their paths, then when they are gone, the tears. You would think he would have been the easier, considering we still had a houseful of homeschooling going on. But for me that pain was like loss. He was my best friend, my hopes and dreams, our family peacemaker, sunshine and creativity, problem solver, planner and idea man, helper. I felt a huge hole in our family without him there. Two years later #2 left, the others quickly following. It’s never easy for mothers, who love their children. But for us homeschool moms, who are used to being with their kids more, it’s just painful. We burned up Interstate 5 for seven years of the three boys at The Masters College, attending cross-country meets, choir performances, Truth and Life conferences, Back-to-School bbq’s, graduations, even the trip to Israel when Chris did a semester over there.

    The upside is seeing them thrive and being proud of them. And the ensuing grandchildren! But for that moment, as I write about it, I still cry. I’ll forever miss those exhausting years when my days were so purpose-driven.

  2. We let go because we must to let them thrive. So many fears, so many questions. JH has a foundation to build on. He will succeed at times and that foundation will be part of what brought him to success. He will fail at times and that foundation will help him pick up the pieces and carry on. He will build and build and build and at 30 he will look very different than he did at 18. He will look more like himself and less like you. And it will be good. We know when they are born that they are a separate person from us but at 18 we KNOW that they are a separate person and they must go become who God has made them to be.
    If we give into our fears and hold on too tight they know we do not believe in them so they have a harder time having the courage to jump into life and give it their all. We must let them try. We must let them succeed and we must let them fail. We must let them grow without us at the helm. We must let them become different than us.
    Our lives become different. In some ways better as we have more time with our husband, more time with God and more time to develop ourselves outside of kids. I love being close to my kids but I know I have to learn and grow and become also so that I am not dependent on them for my happiness and become a burden. I want to make them proud of me.

    1. I love that Christine, “they must go become who God has made them to be.” I know they are proud of their amazing mom. Thank you for your words

  3. I’m so inspired in your trust and faith in something so much larger than ourselves. What a thoughtful and soul-filled woman you are. You have a lot to teach me, dear niece, Kate. So proud of your independent spirit which has been so different from my mindset for so may years. You have so much to share on your precious journey. With gratitude and love to you and your most precious people.
    Aunt Anna

    1. I love you my sweet and cheerful Aunt! You have been an example of creativity and strength. Thank you for your encouraging words and I hope to see you soon

  4. One more comment. This subject is near and dear to my heart. A few years ago Jeff and I were on vacation in Brookings OR. We rented a spot that was privately owned. The owners must have been believers because on the walls were several pictures with scripture. One scripture is imbedded in my heart: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth.” Is it a blessing to have your children all living close by?…absolutely. Is it a joy to see them succeed at career and marriage?…yes. But far greater joy is to watch them serve the Lord. What if hard times come their way?…and they will…what if they fail?…and they will…what if they are tested by praise and success?… what if they are tested with disappointment?…those test too will come. It is a deep and rich joy to watch them serve the Lord through real life. Who they become from walking through real life, with the Lord, is…beautiful.

  5. Your writing touches my heart. My experience of letting go of my first (and only) born has been an on going process. When your child chooses a path so entirely different than you could have possibly imagined, only faith helps you to grow enough yourself to come to acceptance. God places them into our care for such a short time. Only trust in Gods plan for them lets us move forward. Never lose hope, do what you can, continue to pray and trust that the Lord loves them even more than we do, ALWAYS….Love you dear girl, L

  6. Kate, It’s 4 in the morning and I’ve been Loving!!! ( through tears) this journey that your beautifully written stories and Amazing! photos are taking me on. Thank you for sharing, and for always taking the path that leads to Jesus.

    If I’m completely honest, the thought of our firstborn ( and secondborn too!) leaving home immediately brings a lump in my throat and tears to my eyes. I know that, like ALL the other seemingly “impossible” times that we have made it through, God Will give us Everything we need to come through, not as emotional wrecks ( which I have the ability to excel at) but closer to Him for having Let Him carry, prune and nurture us. To have Our Children led forward in life, Holding tight to the Hand of God, is What we Can Expect, Right? After all, Ultimately they are His!. We all want our children to see God’s strength and God’s acceptance as some of our Best qualities. They want to have a Cool Mom, not a distraught Wreck! Lord, give us Peace. In Each Day. So that these milestones of our Children growing up and moving out will be Cause for Celebration!!! Knowing You will Always complete the Work you have started, Lord Jesus, makes each day Beautiful.

    1. You are such a dear heart Robin and I am so honored to have met you a second time. Your loving ways and demonstration of your faith are a gift to all you meet

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