When my daughter April was small she put her hands on her hips and informed me she was old enough to walk to school by herself.
I’d always walked beside her on the way to school with her younger siblings in tow. I was careful to teach her to look both ways before she crossed the street. I also taught her not to talk to strangers. So when she asked me if I would let her walk to school alone, I was scared.
I knew I could watch her from the street corner and make sure she arrived safely but I really didn’t want to let her go it alone. Yet, when I looked into her eyes I knew I would hurt her confidence if I told her all the reasons to be scared.
So I agreed.
When the big morning arrived, I reviewed all our rules then walked her to the street corner. We hugged extra tight and said goodbye. Then she walked away without me. My heart fell out on the sidewalk
I wanted to scream, “No, you can’t do that. Someone might hurt you!”
Instead I said, “Way to go April. You’re so big. I’m so proud of you.”
I secretly followed my daughter that day, hiding behind every bush and tree so she wouldn’t know I was right there making sure she was safe. I noticed she really did look both ways on street crossing without being reminded and not a single scary stranger approached her.
After I watched April open the school door and step inside, I turned and plodded back home. I’d spent years making sure she was safe and well cared for. Now she was ready to take on part of that responsibility herself and I felt happy, proud, sad and scared all mixed up together.
Then it occurred to me that God watches over us like that. He doesn’t want to hurt our progress and growth, so He lets us walk through life thinking we are alone when He’s always there hiding behind every bush or tree, watching over us.
We parents face our child’s first sleep-over, first choir tour, first date or first college dorm with anticipation and regret. We want our children to be independent but we never feel like we’ve had enough time together. Our busy lives never seem to include enough one-on-one bonding with each child. All too soon we realize we’ll never get our son and daughter’s childhood back even for a moment.
We parents walk a fine line wondering: How do we protect our children without being over-protective? So we try – but often feel like a drunk man – weaving on and off the protective versus smothering straight line, unsure how to put one foot in front of the other and walk away. When are our children really ready to play alone in the back yard, walk to school, drive a car, leave for college or get married? Probably never. Yet life is constantly nudging – pushing us and them forward. Always sooner than we’re ready, it is - ready or not, here they go.