For Phil and Cheri Straw, the end-goal of parenting was to raise Godly, independent children. But seeing their plan come to fruition didn't make letting go any easier.
Their daughter, Lindsey, spent her senior year pursuing her passions—dancing, singing and acting—as she had for many years. Responsible and respectful, her parents' main concern during her last year of high school was teaching their daughter to budget. They had her write down her anticipated daily expenses, including lunches, gasoline, birthday gifts for friends and entertainment, and allotted her a set, bimonthly amount of money. It was up to her to make it last.
"It was certainly trial and error," says Cheri of the process. "We often wish we had done a better job and started earlier, but it proved to be a learning experience for her and for us."
The Straw's concern for their daughter's financial situation extended beyond high school. They wanted her to graduate college with as little debt as possible, prepared to enter a career that would pay the bills.
But even deeper, they wanted her to follow God's calling for her life. This desire was tested when Lindsey informed them that she was turning down a virtual full-ride scholarship to a local college for a much smaller scholarship elsewhere. She had also decided to pursue a vocal performance major instead of her previous plan to become a teacher after double-majoring in English and Music.
Cheri remembers the day Lindsey attempted to verbalize this to her parents while visiting a campus. "We could tell she was very nervous about telling us because, obviously, it is harder for mom and dad to see a 'marketable income' for a performance major than it is to see it for an educator," she says. While the revelation surprised the couple, they both agreed that they didn't want Lindsey to look back on her college days with regret. "We encouraged her to continue earnestly seeking God's direction, and to follow the path and dream He pointed her to."
"Obviously it would have been better financially for her to attend college in her hometown," Phil says. "But I felt it would be good for her to go away to college. It would allow her to grow up, and become more responsible."
Lindsey spent the summer after graduation working at a local gas station. As she prepared to leave for college, it was a summer of mixed emotions for the two parents.
"We were sad, yet happy," Phil says, "Sad that a part of our life had concluded, yet happy to see her go through a new stage of life and maturity. We were very proud too, being that there weren't a lot of people in my family who had gone off to college."
Lindsey had been very close to her mom, even through the turbulent teenage years. The two became especially close during her last years of high school. "We shared a lot," Cheri says. "In some ways I felt like I was losing one of my best friends when she moved out. It is literally like a piece of you is missing."
During her last week at home, Lindsey called her mom.
"I'm picking you up at 4 p.m.," she said. "Wear something comfortable, and flip flops."
"I couldn't quite figure out what she was up to," Cheri says, "but she picked me up and took me for my first manicure and pedicure. She insisted on paying for it herself. I think it was her lovely way of wanting to do something special for me, her way of saying goodbye."
Mom and daughter spent the last few days of her time at home eating ice cream, watching chick-flicks and shopping for last-minute dorm-room needs.
When the day came for Lindsey to move into her dorm room three hours away, the family (little brother in tow) made the trip together. The hardest part of that day?
"Driving away," Cheri says. "It hurt. A lot. But we also felt that God would truly protect her."
Since their daughter's departure for college, the couple has enjoyed more time to focus on their relationship, as well as more time to spend with their son, Tyler, who is in his early high school years.
They've also learned how to "be there" for their daughter long-distance through visits, cell phone calls, text messages, e-cards and prayer.
"I let her know that if she needs something, to let me know," Phil says. "Her car battery went dead a few weeks ago. She knew she could just call and I'd come up to help her through it."
The couple has high hopes for their daughter, who will soon spend her first summer away from home living in her own apartment.
"Lindsey is very gifted," Cheri says. "She has a lovely voice; is an accomplished dancer and actress; and has a beautiful spirit that shines through on stage. We have had to let go and trust that the God who gave her these gifts will guide her to use them in a way that honors Him. I believe He will."