The Rope

Our job is to prepare our kids to live their own lives.
~ Dr. Meg Meeker

My boss gave each of his daughters ropes when they left for college. Yes, actual ropes. Growing up, the analogy of the rope was explained to them this way: As your parents, we’re holding one end of the rope and you’re tied to the other end. When you prove you can make smart decisions and be trustworthy, you will be given more and more rope. If, on the other hand, you lie to us or do something stupid, we’ll pull the rope in leaving you with less slack.


This is where my wife and I find ourselves today – giving our sixteen-year-old girls rope. And it’s really hard. I want so badly to keep them in a protective bubble. I want so badly to make sure they’re safe. I imagine myself as a video game hero, zapping everything that flies in front of them with my astro-blaster as they make their way through life. I want to clear their path. But I know I can’t and I know I shouldn’t try.

Last week, my daughter, Megan called me for help. Her car wouldn’t start and she was stranded outside the restaurant where she works. Everyone else had left. She was alone in a dark parking lot with a dead car. Maybe I was in television news too long, but the ten-minute drive to her was excruciatingly long. Speed limits meant very little to me as I made my way to her, and I prayed that she would be protected until I arrived. When I finally got to her, we Googled the problem and she was on her way within fifteen-minutes. And I thought, I’m not always going to be this close. I’m not always going to be there for her. I swear, when I brought my wife and two perfect baby girls home from the hospital in June of 2000, none of what I’m feeling now was even part of my imagination. I miss worrying about them crawling out of their cribs. I miss worrying about them making their letters backwards or skinning their knees after falling off their scooters. Those worries, now so small, have drifted into the past. Now, I’m holding tightly onto a rope, and I’m reluctantly giving them slack. Eventually, I’ll release it and hand it to them.
It will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and also the greatest.

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  • Matthew Princing

    thanks for the reminder….I have been preparing myself for the day she goes to college for about four years now and I know I still will not be prepared for the emotion both sad and proud, mostly selfish because I will miss her, mostly proud because I know she will change the world with Christ by her side. Love the rope analogy, I might have to use that.

  • Karen

    My son graduates high school next Friday. He is my last born, last child at home and I am having a hard time giving him the rope. He was born premature with a birth defect called Gastroscesis. It’s when the internal organs in the gut form in a sac outside the body instead of inside. If it sounds horrific, it was. Years of surgeries, late nights worrying about him, doctor visits, specialists – when you go through that with a child it often cements you to them in ways you didn’t share with your other kids. I have a daughter, she turned 30 this year. We are close but she knows my relationship with her brother is different. She understands because of his health issues. Jump forward now to today. He’s 19 this August. And he’s leaving home. Those health problems sorted themselves out eventually. He has decided he wants to join the Air Force and explore the world. He wants to go into some form of Engineering eventually getting his college degree after his service time. Am I scared? Of course! But I want him to do what he wants to do for his future. HIS future. Not mine. I will – like you – always be there for him and plan to hand him a real rope (sharing your tradition) next Saturday at his graduation party. But for now, I’ll hold that rope close to my heart a little while longer. While I can.

    • Curt Harding

      I love this note! I feel you spoke for so many parents out there. Wow. I just prayed for your son. It’s okay, MOM!