Here’s my column in today’s Greenville News.  This is the link:

Here’s the text:

Children inevitably grow up.  This is one of the hard parts of having them.  We spend years raising them, caring for them, protecting them, teaching them.  And along the way, they grow taller, stronger, more handsome, more lovely; their voices change, their passions evolve and before we know it, they are adults.

I’m reminded of this hard reality this time of year.  Proms and graduations abound.  Everywhere I turn, children I knew as shy, adorable little waifs are grown-up people with plans and aspirations romantic, educational and professional.  And every day, in my own house, I see the incremental transformation of girl to woman, boy to man.

I have to admit, as a father who truly enjoys fatherhood, there is a kind of pain involved.  When our children are close to us, when they are attached to us body, mind and soul, their maturity is a kind of excision as they are separated from us.  Even the most necessary surgery results in discomfort.  And this surgery has been repeated for as long as men and women have borne, loved, raised and released their children.

Sometimes I rail against it.  Why can’t they just stay mine?  What if I want to watch princess movies and play with Matchbox cars until I die at a ripe old age?  What if I don’t ever want them to leave?  Why don’t I scream ‘stay, stay, stay!  You can’t go, you’re my little one!’

Well, the children would think I’m crazy and run away; and some things are simply inexorable.  Appeal to nature or God as we may, the result will be the same.  They can’t stay little forever.

I’ve thought about it a great deal and have arrived at some conclusions.  You see, even if we could somehow alter the fabric of the universe to make ourselves young parents forever, and our children young children eternally, no good would come of it except the self-indulgence of selfish parents.  Our children would become adorable pets; little more than cute monkeys who constantly need us and who never rise up to become anything of their own.  They would be slaves to our delights; they would be robbed, as it were, of their destinies.  The relationship would never change or grow.

Equally terrible, and far more dangerous, the world would become stagnant.  We would be robbed of new talents, ideas and energy.  Art and science, business and education, every activity of men would be mired in the past.  Generations of families would be tempted to keep the world in stasis; never becoming more than it is.

This is because the world only advances when individual humans advance, and when the collective weight of their effort causes change.  Furthermore, every generation of children has something unique, put in place by God, for the good of themselves and the world at large.

Our children cannot stay children anymore than we could.  They are made to go into the world and do good things; including have their own children so that they can be lifted up and crushed by love as each of us has been.  So it is our duty as loving parents to prepare them, physically, intellectually, spiritually to be the next agents of productivity, love, wisdom, justice, curiosity and righteousness.

Ironically, we hope and pray through every illness, every injury, every trip or adventure and every looming pandemic that our children will be well, and will grow up safe.  But when they do, we seem to say, ‘but not yet!’

Ultimately, I suppose, we are only raising the children God put here.  We are all temporal, earthly surrogates for the true Father of our little darlings.  Every Spring, He seems to remind us that we must purposefully, intentionally let go.

It is my greatest comfort to know that when my own leave my guidance and control, they will merely move on into the path God marked out for them from the beginning.

Maybe that knowledge will make all of our future graduations a little easier to bear.

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