Then, when my oldest son turned 13 and began to remove himself from the bosom of the family and my mother’s heart began to break with the letting go, I got it. We get this scene of Jesus going his own way, sitting with the elders in the temple, because this is how it is in every human life. At some point we leave mother and father and strike out on our own because we “must be about our Father’s business.” That is, the business that our heavenly Father calls us to: the reason for which we were created and allowed to walk this human journey.

Once I became the mother of a teenager I read this story differently. I recognized the “turning” in the boy Jesus that would result in the man Jesus, just as I began to recognize it in my own son and in his two brothers after him, and finally in my youngest child, my daughter. Certainly Jesus loved Mary and Joseph and he obediently follows them home, but something has changed, just as something has changed in your son. Jesus is now a seeker, searching out his response to a higher calling in his life.

Questions for Christ may be sent to
her at Catholic Herald Parenting, PO Box
070913, Milwaukee, 53207-0913 or by e-mail:

Your son’s need to awaken to himself as a separate human being is not the end of your family. Rather, it is a new chapter, and it’s time now to gather your women friends: the Blessed Mother, Sarah and Hannah of the Old Testament, St. Monica, your own mother, and all other women who have said “yes” to the gift and responsibility of motherhood and then have had to give their precious child back to God (Read about Sarah in Genesis and Hannah in 1 Samuel).

Mary pondered all these things in her heart. Remember, this was her first experience of parenting an adolescent and she didn’t know what was to come until it came. So, settle in, gather your spiritual and earthly support group, and see how God’s plan unfolds for your son. Your assignment is to keep loving, whatever form that may take along the way. Most likely that love will include some firm guidelines, difficult discipline, and perhaps some so-called “tough love.” But it will also include moments of great joy, a new closeness, and a sense of awe as your son grows into himself. Your love will deepen as it’s tested. Keep your heart open and pliable. It will be stretched, perhaps pierced, perhaps broken, but the answer to your “yes” is to wake up each morning, ready to companion your son on the road to his “becoming,” following the way of love even as Christ loved us (Eph 5:2).

Neither you nor your son can see or understand right now just exactly what his unique journey to adulthood will entail, but just as Jesus and the Holy Family realized on that day in Jerusalem, your son is compelled to move forward and seek out God’s plan for him. The perennial “coming of age” story that Jesus needed to experience in order to be truly one of us, is happening now in your holy family.

(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke,” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)