Congratulations Samuel Leap, and the entire class of 2013!  We love you son!  You’re the best.

I am writing this from the beach.  Many of the best times Jan and I have had with the children have been in the sand and surf of our coastline.  We carried the kids to the water where they splashed and played, terrified of waves, fascinated by every shell, every tiny crab, thrilled at the simplest sand-castle and always exhausted within an hour or two, when we carried them back to the room for naps.  Those are good memories.

They are with us again, enjoying our annual end-of-school trek to the ocean, wherein we clear our heads and sleep to the sound of the waves.  The kids are remarkably taller, faster, stronger, smarter and more handsome (and yes, beautiful my daughter). Now, if necessary, they could carry me.

This year is poignant.  Our oldest graduates from high-school.  Samuel is 18 and the future is wide open before him.  My wife handles these events with much more equanimity than I do; I fret and worry, and wonder ‘have I done enough?’  I brood and wish I could transport myself back in time and re-play all the wonder.  I dream that I could keep all the kids small a while longer.

But it’s madness and it only makes Jan shake her head in patient love.  For the waves roll on, the tide comes in and goes out, and children grow up.  It is inevitable and inexorable.  So what do we do?  We must learn to view it from a new perspective.

The long history of parenthood was not always as it is.  In ages past, our ancestors lost many children in childhood and many in youth and young adulthood. And many parents before their children were grown, as well.  Disease, starvation, war, sickness and accident were so common that it would stun us if we went back to view it all in person.  And in fact, around the world in many locales, the same fact remains.  Rebellion and hatred, cruelty and medieval cultures abound and growing up and old, is no certainty.

In essence, then, this pining over our children as they grow up is a kind of ‘first-world problem.’  A thing that matters to us most because we are so very blessed and we have the luxury of anxiety over things others would call blessings.  Our children survived childhood and adolescence.  They have possibilities and futures.  Praise the Lord!

The thing is, they aren’t going away from us really.  If we love them well and raised them well, our role has only just begun as friends and advisers, supporters and cheerleaders.  Furthermore, they were made for their own purposes, and it wasn’t to entertain us.  It was to honor God with their love, worship and service.  It was to improve the world.  To learn, to produce, to create.  Not to sit idly by in life, but to make the world better for all.  Not to be only observers and consumers, but to engage and change the universe, the culture and the lives of all those they touch.  And to make more children (also known as grandchildren), or at least bring other young people into the fold as daughters and sons-in-law.

Changes is in the air, like the smell of the sea. Therefore I have to embrace what I realized today, looking out at the ocean.  You see, we have built a lot of sand-castles down the years.  Large and small, good and bad.  Just yesterday our entire family build a veritable city and then stood by smiling as the waves reclaimed it.  It was temporary, like all of them were.  But this beach remained.  And this place.  And this ocean, with its cycle of high tide and low tide, it’s moon-drunk waves moving in and out, drawing us close by night and day.  And this pattern of ours has remained; our love of one another mixed with our love of this place.

As our kids grow up and move on, a castle rises up and falls down.  Beautiful and memorable.  But our love is the beach and the ocean, the waves, the sunrise and moonlight.  The connections we form go on and return again and again, even as the surface changes.

So parents, cry and smile as the kids graduate, whatever path they choose.  And fear not.  They are still yours and always will be.  And graduates, seize life, grow and learn. And remember you are still tied by unbreakable cords of love to your family.

It’s all as certain as the sea.

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