Four months.

How can a set amount of time feel like an eternity in one season and a vapor in another?

Lately, I find myself wrestling with the paradox.

My 20-year-old son is preparing to transfer to an out-of-state school next fall. It’s not as if I haven’t had time to process the transition. In fact, I’ve benefited from having him live at home for the past two years.

As we entered his senior year of high school in 2015, the path after graduation appeared vague. Would he go away? Stay at home? For some the answers may seem obvious. The lure of scholarships, the desire for independence, and following in the footsteps of “tradition” give way to moving away from home.

But our story led to a different way.

Our family endured much in the last  two decades. Unexpected circumstances fueled struggles which wove through the connections between us. Family relationships became fragile. Sibling relationships held on by a thread. But we forged through the rough terrain together, holding onto the hope that smoother ground would eventually ground our feet.

It did.

Though he graduated two years ago, he has lived at home. Choosing to attend community college allowed for healing, both within himself and in our family bonds. The last two years have been a gift.

Yet, It hasn’t been easy.

We have had to make adjustments. He is now a young adult living at home. That reality requires a change in perspective. I have had to grant him freedoms. If he were away at school, I would not be privy to some of his choices. How would I know if he slept instead of studying? What junk food fueled his body? Did he study adequately for the test? Has he responded back to the girl who texted him today?

Arguments have invaded our personal territory. Despite the urgency to quickly put out the fire, I have learned to let it burn for a while. Sometimes something scary has a redemptive purpose.

Learning to let it be has been a lesson in allowing my son to become the person I have been praying him to become. And truthfully, he isn’t my child. He is God’s—who began knitting him together in my womb and isn’t finished yet.

I’ve known this since the day he was born. But I relished the fact he was still in my sphere. Still able to come to the dinner table. Still part of our family’s participation in our church. Still able to watch a rented movie in our home. Still able to impulsively have conversations in the car while on a run to the grocery store.

How can it be 20 years already?

Those early days seemed so long.

I remember sitting in the driveway on a hot summer morning while he drew endlessly on the blacktop driveway with sidewalk chalk. I wondered when the day would end.

I remember when we brought home his sister and the jealousy that ensued. I wondered how we would find a way out of this long season.

And when we brought home his baby brother, he was so excited to show him off. Proudly he beckoned us into his preschool class to let his friends see the source of his excitement. But truthfully, I wondered how I’d manage more kids than I had hands.

The last 20 years have been no utopia. No family experiences that. But, I am grateful nonetheless.

So, reluctantly, I let him go. I know I am in the company of mamas who have come before me.

Because the one thing we all know so well is that in one season, four months can seem like an eternity and in another, it is a vapor. I’m just thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given.

Stephanie Thompson

Stephanie is a an ordained pastor, speaker, writer and mental health advocate. She writes about sensing the voice of God and encountering the Holy Spirit in the midst of our everyday routines. In addition, the theme of  mental illness finds itself woven into some of her posts. Her pieces have appeared on multiple sites. She is also a writer for the Redbud Guild. Stephanie lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three teens. She blogs at http://stephaniejthompson.com/ and can be followed on Twitter @s2thomp and facebook.