Our time is so short. These years with our children in our home are precious. Today, I felt a twinge as I saw a friend’s photo on social media. She was hugging her oldest daughter on the college campus after dropping her off for her first year of studies. Her daughter is a few years older than my oldest, and they used to play together as little girls. It will be just a few short years before my husband and I will help our first child move into a dorm for the first time. I might sigh to myself as I remind her to pick her harp music off the floor, to wipe the counter thoroughly after cleaning the kitchen, and to tidy her room. However, in a quiet spot in my heart, I keep thinking about that August day not too many years off when we will head back home from her college campus without her.
How do I want these next few years to go? How can I build our relationship, strengthen her faith, support her education, teach her some basic life skills, and prepare her for whatever her vocation may be? How do I help her to know that she is enough . . . even as I pester her daily with those motherly reminders? I’ve found myself taking a new interest in the families around me that seem especially good at connecting with their adult children. I squint into the future, trying to envision the kind of relationship I want to have as a mother to adult children.
Our Lady held baby Jesus in her arms—of course she did! However, one detail in the infancy narrative in the Gospel of Luke has always struck me: why did the Blessed Mother place her newborn infant in a manger? When my babies were first born, all I wanted to do was hold them and hold them and hold them. It seems to me that Mary placed Jesus in the manger as a sacrificial offering, right from the start. She knew that her precious child was not for her alone—she gave him to the whole world, to the Father, and to us.
Our Lady knew how to attach—how to support and hold close—and also how to let go. I turn to her for help handling the transition ahead as our children grow up and leave home. I ask her help to make these remaining years, while we’re all together in the same home, filled with closeness, love, worthy modelling, strong formation in the faith, and good memories. I ask her to help me not to nag or belittle, but to speak with respect each and every time I need to remind. I ask help in remembering to prioritize the moment and to be present—not to be distracted on my phone in my children’s presence day after day while these years slip by. I ask for Mary’s help now to begin building the foundation of a good, life-long relationship with my future adult children.
Mary, may your discretion, faith, and trust be the star that guides me.
Sarah Bartel has a passion for strengthening Catholic marriage and family life. A mom of five with a Ph.D. in moral theology, she and her husband of twenty years created the Cana Feast virtual marriage ministry, which you can find at www.canafeast.com. Sarah lives near Seattle.