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Let Go
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One of my sons is majoring in Civil Engineering at college. He will be spending six weeks in Costa Rica and Panama, this spring and summer. It is not a vacation, rather it is part of his curriculum—he will get credit hours in Water Management Engineering that apply to his degree. 

My son is in his twenties, and plans to graduate in December. He is mature and responsible. So I should not worry, right?

Actually, that is right. I should not worry about him during this trip. Central America is not College Station, Texas, but neither is it the Somalia or Cambodia. Nor is hands-on Civil Engineering particularly hazardous—even in Central America. Thousands of other Americans my son’s age—sons and daughters of other American parents—are in places like Afghanistan or Iraq, serving in the United States military. Their hands-on work involves truly hazardous activities, including getting shot at. 

Despite this, I will worry—from the day his airplane leaves the ground en route to Central America until the wheels once more touch down in Texas. It may not be rational, but he is my son. I can only imagine the real concerns of those with sons and daughters in harm’s way with the American military overseas.

Time to Step Back

Yet despite my worries I would not stop him from doing this—any more than I would stop one of my adult sons from joining the United States military, if that was his desire. The most important part of being a parent is knowing that there is a time to step back, a time to let go. In your mind’s eye you remember your child as a six-year-old although he or she is an adult exercising judgment and responsibility. 

Nor am I unreasonable to worry. My father, now in his eighties, still worries about his three sons. To him we are painfully young—only in our fifties. Despite Dad's worries about my brothers and I,  he takes great pride in our successes. Just as I—despite my concerns—will be proud of what my son has achieved.

Even God, the Father of all of us is concerned about us, His children, as we make our way on Earth. Knowing that by giving us free will, we may fall into error. But He too, must feel pride in those of His children who choose a relationship with Him.

It is the paradox of parenting. You let yourself worry so that your children can achieve. But to succeed as a parent, to allow them to achieve what they are capable of achieving, you have to set aside those worries and let go.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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