Jen Gienapp: Letting A Sparrow Go

Thursday, August 29, 2013 - by Jen Gienapp
Jen Gienapp
Jen Gienapp

We just got home, from taking our second kiddo to college. I thought it’d be easier, having been through it once before, but I think it just gets harder.

I once had a wise cousin tell me that she really preferred the teen years to the baby years. As a young mom, I doubted her, but her words always stuck with me. Now, as an older mom, I see her wisdom, and I’ve decided I love the teenage years the best. But with that, comes heartache.

I enjoyed the early years with my five children, and to this day, I love to hold a baby or a toddler, even change a diaper, or try to give a new mom a break, in trying to rock a baby to sleep. On occasion, I really miss those days.

But there’s really not anything like having teenagers.  I’ve decided that only death or a horrible accident could be harder than sending one’s kids to college. This really might be the toughest part of parenting.  Of course, I haven’t gone through marriage for them, then new jobs, disappointments and betrayals, and grandbabies, but for now, this is my angst.

The thing is, after you spend those first 15 years of parenting, through diapers, keeping them alive, pulling teeth, carpooling, videotaping, attending multitudes of games, shows, parent/teacher conferences, etc., all of a sudden, they turn into your friends. I’m not usually one to advocate the whole “parents should be friends to their kids” thing, but in a way, I am. By the time they get to be late teenagers, they ARE your friends, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

We have enjoyed, by the grace of God, a good relationship with our oldest teens. I don’t take that for granted, as I know many parents don’t have that with theirs. But ours are funny, smart, talented, and sarcastic (they got that from their dad). That’s what makes it so hard to leave them. I want to be around them all the time. But at the same time, I want to let them go, and see what they’ll do as adults. There’s no way I would begrudge them that.

I do get sad, when I go into my daughter’s room, seeing what she left behind. The simplest things make me tear up. On the other hand, I’m waiting anxiously to hear about her fall class schedule. I’m happy I won’t have to wait up for her, when she’s driving home from ballet, late at night in Wyoming. But now I also worry about her driving in more intense traffic, and a multitude of other things. When I hugged my eldest, already gone for a couple years, goodbye, and heard him say, “love ya, mom,” my eyes welled – and he’s almost 20! I’ve been told the worry never goes away, no matter how old they get. But another cousin recently said to me, “Don’t worry, Jen. We’re all in God’s hands.” What a simple truth, that needs to become my daily mantra.

There are still kids’ transmissions to be fixed, tuition to be paid, books to be bought, and the late night phone conversations about college relationships or intern possibilities. At the same time, I have littles who need help with homework, and I have soccer practices and games to attend. It’s such an ongoing crazy life. Too soon, I know, it will be over.

But in the Bible, Matthew and Luke say, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” I know that God’s eye is on the sparrow, and I’m trusting in that for my children, both here and 2,300 miles away.

(Jen Gienapp and her husband, Andy, made the move from Chattanooga to Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 2011. She can be reached at

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