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My 16-year-old went off to school for the first time this month.

My neighbor who knew none of my children have ever gone to school outside our home asked me:

Was it hard?

I heard myself answering, but I was sitting across from my then 15-year-old son in a restaurant last spring when he said, “I’m thinking I might want to go high school next year.”

I watched him as he fidgeted and explained his reasons for wanting to finish his education outside of our home, but all I could really see was a two-year-old holding up letter-shaped puzzle pieces and asking, “What dat?” All I could hear was this little boy insisting, “Read, Mama. Read!” I could only see an older boy who read everything he got his hands on, including his Bible. I saw a teen who questioned absolutely everything. And back in the present, I saw a young adult seeking his mother’s approval for something he felt led to do.

As I continued to answer my neighbor’s question, I saw myself weeping alone. I saw myself talking and praying with my husband. I saw my conversation with my son in which I told him honestly, “I don’t want you to go to school!” And I heard him answer, “So why are you letting me go?” I felt the ache in my throat once again when I answered, “Because it’s not about what I want, but what’s best for you.”

I kept talking to my neighbor while I watched my boy heft his backpack on his shoulder and walk toward the bus stop, wondering if he would get picked up, if he would find all his classes, if he would have anyone to sit with at lunch, if he would miss me.

And I realized that answering my neighbor’s question was like answering whether natural labor is hard or grieving a loss is hard or parenting is hard.

I wondered why I had never thought to ask God that question.

Was it hard to send Your only Son away from home, knowing what He would suffer?

I suppose I haven’t asked because I already know the answer:

Love is hard.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Have you ever had a hard time sending a child off to school? How can you encourage another woman who has sent her child out of the nest?

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