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Letting Go Of My Kids Is The Hardest Tightrope I've Walked As A Dad

letting go of my kid as a dad

Things have changed a lot in the last twelve months.

My eldest son went to college last year. We coached him as he made plans for dorm necessities. We prompted when it seemed he needed to get more, do more, say more. And we watched as he took new-found freedom by the responsibility horns and made straight A’s in difficult classes, worked a real job, and navigated roommates who weren’t related to him for the first time in history.

And I wept.

Letting him go while holding him close is probably the most difficult tightrope I’ve ever walked as a father.

Isaac came home this summer. And amidst the occasional tension of rolled eyes when we over-parented, and the irritated grunts when he acted more like a kid than an adult, I found out my son is a really amazing man.

One of my directors at the church where I work hired Isaac as a summer intern. I thought maybe he got the job because he was related to me. But when the entire ministry team lobbied me to hire Isaac as a permanent team member, I realized he earned a spot on our team all on his own. And as I have worked alongside him as my colleague and employee, rather than my son, he has completely confounded every irresponsible stereotype of a Millennial.

How did I raise such a conscientious, hard-working, tenacious young man? Most days I’m looking for a way to sneak a quick nap on my too-comfortable office couch without getting caught!

I "Ugly-Cried" When I Left My Son At College

It’s a pretty well-known fact among my friends and family that leaving Isaac at college last year wasn’t pretty. I ugly-cried. I mean “pull-the-car-over-before-you-kill-us-all-honey” cried. Snot and tears mingled down. I think my other boys thought I was having a nervous breakdown. (And true to teenage form, they were more intent on laughing at me than consoling me.)

So as we approached the end of this summer and Isaac began packing up his office area and his bedroom, everyone was watching with a sideways glance to see how I would fare.

And then this happened…

Isaac turned on his own utilities at his college residence 500 miles away. Zero help from me. I was impressed. And stoic.

Isaac directed the set-up of his own kitchen. Zero help from me. I was impressed. And stoic.

Isaac saved enough money to pay for his entire second year of college. Zero help from me. I was impressed. And stoic. (And relieved!)

Today I read this line from a social media post I made a year ago: “Tomorrow, Isaac officially moves out. Hello University. So long, baby boy. You teach me about being amazing every single day.”

Today: not so stoic.

I’m holding it together because I’m in public. But I’m locked in the bathroom of my soul with the ugly cry again. Some are tears of pride. Most are just tears of gratitude – that I get to be a dad to some amazing kids and a husband to a lady so far out of my league. I am so very, very blessed. Thank you, God!

And here’s what I’ve learned:

What I've Learned As A Dad About Letting Go Of My Kids

Whether they’re thriving or struggling in the path or early adulthood, it’s a hard/fun/weird time watching our kids grow up and grow into who they are created to be.

And it’s privilege.

And it’s gut-wrenching.

And it’s hope.

And it’s OK to cry in the bathroom of your soul…or your car….or this stupid coffee shop where people are currently wondering what’s wrong with this man who’s now weeping in the corner.

And it’s OK to lean into the changing relationship that comes with children becoming adults.

It’s an honor, Isaac. An honor to be your dad, and an honor to call you my son.

Thank you for making it so easy.

Thank you, God.

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