The adventure of change

Originally Appeared in : 9817-8/16/18

When our oldest son Ethan left for college (three weeks after high school graduation), it was almost more than I could bear. It wasn’t enough that my boy was no longer with all his brothers at the same K-12 school they’d all been at together. He was now leaving our nest, our neighborhood, our little part of the world.


He was only a few hours away, but it was epic. Never before had all of my children not all been together, in our home, under my watch. Up until that point, we had all traveled together, in our van, going about our life of doing our things, much of it together.




When Ethan left, it felt like a death.


Of course it was the beginning of grand things for our son, of starting the journey toward adulthood and his future, of figuring out who he would become and where he wanted to go in life. But it was also the end of something as well.


I spent over two years feeling sad about this. Maybe it sounds ridiculous, but I’m no longer embarrassed to admit it. I was sad and scared and so unsure what family life would feel like without our oldest, our Ethan, there with us every step of the day.


The reality of your oldest child graduating high school is that by the time that senior year ends, your child has already established a good bit of independence. He will have his own life, his own social dance card. But there are still so many things you do as a family — Sunday Mass being a big one — and the thought of us doing these things without all of us was difficult for me to imagine.


And then Ethan graduated and left home. And then a year later, Elliott began his senior year. That year, I was hoping I would have been used to the concept of people leaving the nest. But that year felt just as difficult, mostly because every aspect of Elliott’s senior year was colored by the reality that I would be doing it all the very next year with Charlie — another “last home basketball game” and “last Spring Dance” — and it felt like too much.


So we got Elliott through graduation and into college and got Charlie started in his senior year. There I was, still sad and emotional and only focusing on all the ways things in my life were changing. I was sad about my people leaving, even as I watched them grow and flourish.


One day, in one of those bolt out-of-the-blue moments, it hit me: Life goes on. And not just in a survival, those-were-the-good-old-days mentality. I realized there was so much joy and excitement ahead of us. I recognized that the season of all of us together at home was wonderful, and the season of my children growing and becoming who God made them to be was the incredible next step.


I remember exhaling and smiling and crying some happy tears. I was letting my sadness go. I had grieved amply, and it was time to rejoice.


I went through Charlie’s senior year so excited about the next step. I was excited for him, and I also started getting excited for my younger children and all the fun we would be having with them. Augie and Henry and Isabel were about to start their own fun adventures, and I got so excited about it all.


In that moment of grace, when I knew it was time to stop being sad, I realized that we were far from the end of family life. There are so many more milestones to come.


You don’t have to pretend change isn’t hard. It is. It can be difficult and scary. But it’s also important to remember that with change comes new excitement and opportunity, too. As we move through life, let’s not hold on to anything so tight that we can’t give it to God with open hands and receive the next blessing, the next opportunity, the next wonderful adventure.


Rachel Swenson Balducci is a freelance writer and member of Most Holy Trinity Church, Augusta. She can be reached at

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