Back to school is a time of new beginnings. A new planner and empty pages in a new composition book seem to signify the opportunity to begin a new chapter. In our family, the beginning of school isn't just the beginning of a chapter, it is the beginning of a closing chapter in our lives.

It is our oldest son’s senior year. I expect it to be a year full of new beginnings, but for every first, there is also a last — the last first day of school photo, the last time we meet to discuss the first day of school over ice cream, the last year that we all live, full time, in the same home. I have to admit as I type these words, my cheeks are wet with tears. This has been a beautiful book in my life and there is a huge part of me that doesn't want it to end.

As I think about the year in front of me, I want to savor every moment. The moments of every day life are what I will miss the most — late nights spent talking, the day-to-day interactions between brothers who are also best friends, morning chats and family meals. All of these things that are a part of the rhythm of family life, I hold a little tighter now. The hardest thing about parenting a teenager is letting go and coming to terms with the fact that after they leave the nest, life will never be the same.

This year offers the last opportunity to assess the things we have taught and make sure that he is ready to live apart from us. Have we taught enough? Have we equipped him to make good decisions? When he is faced with big decisions, will he remember?

As hard as this stage is, it is also sweet. Our parenting philosophy has always been that you raise children so that when they head out on their own, they are equipped to do so. So many parenting decisions point to this end from small decisions, like letting him choose the color of his room when he was 4 or allowing him to go to summer camp where no one is around to take care of his clothes or towel, to big decisions like teaching him about Jesus and how his beliefs affect every aspect of his life.

This is a huge year. There are so many choices, but while we will always provide guidance, many of these choices are no longer ours to make. So as I watch my son making decisions that will shape the rest of his life, I find myself with a lump in my throat, proud of the young man he is becoming.

Yes, thinking about the end of this chapter, this book of our life, leaves me wistful. But, it also leaves me a little excited because as this book ends, a new one begins and the sequel promises to be just as good as the original!

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