You never think you’re ready to let go of your kids.

But I promise you Mama, you’re readier than you believe.

You’ve been practicing the “let go” since they were born even though you can’t remember how or when.

God prepares us for letting go of our children, the day they’re placed in our arms.

I have teenagers. A son, 16, and a daughter, 15. My kids have pecked all the soft, baby down from their wings and replaced them with stronger, repellant, weather-resistant feathers that will fly them right out of my nest into one of their own making.

It’s natural for teens to begin to do things on their own—and ultimately that’s what we’re shooting for, right? Our goal is to make our offspring self-sufficient and productive members of society.

But you know what gets in the way? Need.

Mamas love to feel needed. Need is a drug. We would mainline that need drug all day, every day, if we could. Need fills us. Our mother’s heart is soothed by the salve of showing love through doing for our children.

But we know that kids grow up and grow right out the front door. They watch the game at a friend’s house. They meet at the mall. They grab a bite before a movie or a meet up at the park.

See, when we moms have plans: work, a meeting, a dinner appointment, time away from your teens doesn’t hit you as much. You’re busy. They’re busy. Life is busy.

But when mamas are at home and your kids aren’t—you can’t help but feel the pang.

It’s not pain, it’s a pang—defined as a sudden, sharp pain or painful emotion. An ache.

There it is. A pang is a painful emotion.

A twinge that motherhood is moving through yet another change.

We’re getting ready. We’re getting practice.

It doesn’t seem like we’re getting practice when they head off to school on an ordinary Tuesday, but I bet you remember the practice when you left them at preschool for the first time. And first grade. And middle school.

It doesn’t seem strange when your teens are in their bedrooms or caving the basement, but the practice came when they stopped asking you to play another card game or board game, just one . . . more . . . time.

It’s a pang.

It doesn’t seem like practice when they stay after school to meet friends for a night game, but it sure felt like practice the day they stopped asking you to “watch me” or “watch this” and waved at you sitting in the bleachers.

A pang. A twinge.

The other day my kids had a day off from school and I decided to take the day off, too. I know I don’t have that many more stay-out-of-work-because-of-kids days left, so I seized it. My plan was to let them sleep late, then we could hang out, make some jokes, run around town, maybe grab some lunch. If they were up for it later, we could get an ice cream or my daughter’s favorite, a Mocha Frappé.

But it wasn’t meant to be because God’s getting me ready. He’s giving me practice for the harder let-gos.

My son drove out of the driveway after grabbing a shower and putting on clothes that matched. He said “Bye, Mom!” as he left for the mall to meet friends. My daughter yawned as she stepped out of her bedroom and I watched as she twisted her hair into a high ponytail knot. She said she looked forward to a day in her room to do next to nothing. The ultimate zen, her bliss, is caving. That poor girl—my youngest. I’ll be holding onto her ankles as she drags me into her dorm room.

But God’s getting me ready and giving me practice.

I’m getting practice every time they don’t need a ride from school because our oldest drives them home.

I’ve crossed the practice finish line when it comes to clothes. I’ve made the transition from picking out their clothes to hearing “what should I wear” to never getting asked my opinion.

I’m getting practice every time the “what’s for dinner” becomes “I grabbed something on the way home.”

Pang. Twinge. Oww.

I’ll admit though, some practice of letting go feels good.

I asked my daughter if she needed money to buy a STUCO dance ticket and learned she’s already bought one with her allowance.

My son had a haircut without a reminder from me that he’s looking a bit woolly.

They’re doing all the grown-up things you want them to do, but mamas miss the needing.

The needing to remind them. The needing to provide help. The needing to be included in decisions.

It’s hard to be a caregiver, a confidante, a provider and a nurturer and feel like it comes to an abrupt halt. The needing is ripped away from us and we feel like we are left with nothing but memories.

God prepares us. We might not notice the practice at the time, but it’s there. A subtle change in our duties as mothers and a big change in our kids as they embrace new responsibilities and stronger feathers.

I always believed that I won’t be ready to let them go, but I’ve been letting them go since I held them the first time. God’s giving me practice—a little more every day. Somehow, together, we’ll ready my heart and steady my resolve.

Home will always be their safe place to land, but if we’ve done our job as parents, our kids will be ready for the world.

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Dear Teenagers, Be Patient While I Let Go

Dear Teenage Daughter, I Will Be Right Here Waiting For You to Come Back

Eleanor Howard

I've been married 18 years. I'm a mom of a 16-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter. I am a writer and a bookkeeper. My brain is equally divided on right brain/left brain skills. I've worked in some form of Media & Communications almost my entire working career but Radio Broadcasting gave me roots. I write for Chattanooga Moms Blog and have done three book reviews for Southern Lit Alliance.