My baby just left for college. And now I need tranquilizers.

There are so many moments in parental life we just can’t emotionally prepare for. The insanity of screaming like a Sudanese war chief for hours before the joy of meeting baby.  The anxiety felt on that first day of daycare or Kindergarten. The unhinged thrill of watching them score the winning point at the big game, and the sorrow felt witnessing their first heart break. The nervousness felt as they pull the car out alone, and the pride felt watching them make the right choice under tough circumstances. The overpowering emotions of motherhood have side-swiped me at every turn, but I have to say, the biggest blow has come after dropping my first born at college.

I thought I’d be fine. Exhibiting that same level of ignorant confidence leading me to believe I could maturely remain Facebook friends with the ex. After all. He’d be close to home at a state college, he felt ready to go, and I was excited for him to experience the fun and newness of college life. Plus the thought of not coming home to a counter full of dried cereal bowls, and being jolted awake at midnight by his guitar amp was cause for slight joy.

And so, I remained strong while shopping for closet organizers. Kept calm setting up his dorm room (sure did stuff a Bible in his closet) and held up for the drive home alone after leaving my 6’3 baby on the doorstep of his new life. Aaaaand then I lost it.  

I still don’t understand the atmospheric mood shift that occurred, but I blame the estrogen. I think it was something about the finality of it all. Like, that was it. Two decades of mediocre motherhood and it’s done. My chances to bond, protect, and mold him were over.  How can this be? He still barely knows how to make a doctor’s appointment and most likely believes the shower fairy hangs his wet towels at night. Whyyyy didn’t I force him into more Bible studies when I had the chance? Why wouldn’t I show him how to sauté meat? Why was my purity talk so crappy- he doesn’t stand a chance out there! How could the Lord entrust me with his soul?!

Single mom guilt is an especially nasty nectar. Aside from an amazingly supportive mother and family network, I’ve been all Jack’s had since the day I had him while in college.  And for many seasons of my life, he was all I had.

My college graduation party consisted of me rocking him to sleep at one years old and falling asleep by 9. He’s been my date to parties and weddings (thank God he was tall) he’s been my forever movie partner and proud survivor of two decades of my cooking. He’s been my constant source of joy and love throughout an admittedly sorted life.

As many single parents can relate it’s been a special relationship that I always say brought double the love, but double the chance for failure and pressure. After that college drop off I felt paralyzed with regret, sorrow and shame at all the opportunities I missed, moments I wasn’t present enough for, and times I selfishly ignored his needs to fulfill my own.  It was overwhelming.  

I was one step away from scrap booking to Stevie Nicks and sleeping with his hoodie when God stepped in, as he always does, and said this:

“I’ve always had him. And I always will.”

I had Jack when I was far away from God and searching for love in every wrong turn I could find. I’ve always believed God used Jack to save my life, and now He was reminding me he’s had a special plan for him since the day he was born. Despite my special flavor of parenting.

I’ve never been a “natural” mother. I laugh/cry/wince thinking of all the times I’ve “winged it” with Jack. Sending him to school with Reeses brownies after forgetting to remove the wrapper before baking.  Making him late for nameless events after perilously You-tubing of “how to tie a tie.” Cyberstalking every girl to look his way, to ensure there was no hint of hussy. Never once being able to keep score correctly as his little league helper. Let’s just say the boy earned his good fortune.

But despite all my failures and misgivings, I have to remember nothing will ever throw Jack off the trajectory God has him on.

So often we put ourselves in the place of God, forgetting he loves our kids even more than we do. I’ve finally been able to breathe, and trust that Jack will be okay. That I’ve loved him with every cell in my body, gave him a good life, and most importantly, raised him with the knowledge of Christ.

I still might tearfully peak into his room once and a while, randomly texting reminders to eat more than nitrates, but generally, I’m able to relax knowing God’s got ‘em. Plus. I’m prone to crow’s feet, and we have four more kids to go. Jesus, take the wheel.

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JESSICA KASTNER

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