Why Can’t I Be Sad?

I ran across an article entitled, “Mamas, Please Quit Mourning Your Children Growing Up.” It grabbed my attention, not because I’m a mama (hopefully that’s obvious), but because I actually do mourn my kids growing up. Why does this author tell me to stop mourning? Who does she think she is? (I’m only half-kidding when I ask that.)
My son is in his third year of college, way down in the state of Arizona, and I still haven’t recovered from my most difficult day as a parent. That was the day, over two years ago, when I walked out of his dorm room to leave him and go back home, nearly 1,400 miles away, as the last part of the dreaded freshman year drop-off.
Now, I have to admit the author’s point is valid. She reminds us that we have children to raise them and prepare them for the future we want for them. I would add that even more importantly, we prepare them for the future God wants for them. With these goals in mind, when they reach the point of entering into that future, we should be happy and grateful.
But as a dad, why can’t I be sad? I still grieve over the loss of an incredible blessing I enjoyed for 18 years: my favorite young man in the world living under our roof, eating all of our food, making us laugh until we cried, and playing (and watching and talking) sports with me every possible moment. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the blessings I enjoyed, and lost, when my oldest child left the nest and flew away.
Looking back, when I watched my boy take his first steps, and showed him how to tie his shoes, and taught him to ride a bike, I never dreamed that one day he would wake up as an adult and live under a roof that was not mine. Of course, I knew that day would come, but I can’t recall ever thinking about it, much less preparing for it. So here I am, still grieving even while I celebrate the fact that he’s becoming the very adult I hoped he would be.
I find some comfort in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, which reminds us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” There’s a time to be born and to die, a time to weep and to laugh, and a time to mourn and to dance, among many other things. That same chapter of the Bible tells me that God has set eternity in the human heart, and that everything God does will endure forever.
I don’t get to see my son every day, not by a long shot. But he’s still here on this earth and he stays in touch pretty regularly. And those times when he does come home to visit on break from school? Well, those are about the best days I could ever have. And even though I’m sad to have lost something by his growing up and moving out, I know we have a life to look forward to beyond this world. My love for my son, just like God’s love for me, will endure forever.
Troy Burns