Baby Turtles and Baby Girls -- Thoughts on Sending a Child Off to College

We all held our breath as the naturalist gently probed the sandy cavity.  He counted out loud as he pulled out eggshell after empty eggshell.  We counted with him.  "67, 68, 69."  Oh, how I wished I had been a witness to the flood of baby turtles that had boiled out of this nest two days earlier!  It must have been an amazing sight.

The South Carolina coast is a favorite nesting spot for Loggerhead turtles, and Myrtle Beach State Park had incubated more than its usual number of nests.  Tonight, the naturalist at the park was inventorying one of the nests for statistical purposes.  Several days after a hatching, turtle watchers are required to open up the nest and count the number of hatched eggs, unhatched eggs, and remaining baby turtles.  We watched in fascination as he sifted through the sand and pulled out eggshell after leathery eggshell.

"Seventy, 71, 72 . . . oh!  looks like we've got a live one in here!" he exclaimed as his searching fingers encountered a shell of a different sort -- one with flippers and a tail.  He pulled out a tiny baby turtle, no bigger than a silver dollar, and held him up for us to see.

"Oh, he's so cute!" said one little girl, voicing what all of us were thinking as we examined the miniature reptile.  The naturalist placed him gently on the sand and continued searching.  By the end of the inventory, he had placed one more live baby on the sand beside him.

"Shouldn't we put them in the ocean?" one man asked.  The naturalist explained that these babies hadn't been strong enough to crawl out of the nest on their own, so it was very important that they make their own way down the beach. "Walking the long distance to the ocean strengthens their flippers.  If we just drop them in the water, they'll swim around in circles until a seagull eats them," he prophesied grimly.

"Walking on the beach also imprints the beach in their minds, " he said, "and in 30 years, when it's time for them to lay their eggs, they will return to this exact beach.  Even though they migrate hundreds of miles away, they will always remember where home is."

We formed a line on either side of the babies, all the way to the ocean. He instructed one man to stand in the water with a flashlight shining toward the nest, and the little turtles began their long walk.  Sometimes they strayed from the straight and narrow course, and we had to adjust the line of people cheering them on.  Always we stayed on either side of them, not touching them, but rooting for them as they struggled.

The man with the flashlight, the naturalist explained, was a beacon, helping the turtles find their way to the ocean.  Hatchlings instinctively know to head toward the horizon, he said, which is always the lightest point in the sky. 

It took over an hour for those babies to travel the 90 feet to the ocean.  We cheered them every step of the way.  When the first crawled close enough to the water for a wave to carry him away, the group erupted in a shout.  His brother soon followed, and then they were gone.

I remembered that special night this week. As I send my baby girl off to college for the first time, I feel a little like I did the evening we released the baby turtles to the ocean. We've had the joy of enjoying our daughter from the time she was a tiny baby, standing beside her as she grew stronger and watching her learn to walk.  We have surrounded her with friends and family to cheer her on and give her direction.  

Best of all, we have always pointed her to the Beacon of her soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will always shine a light on her path to show her the way.  I have faith that as she has imprinted our home on her heart, no matter how far away she travels, she will always remember where home is.

I love you, baby girl.  Swim straight and true and make us proud.  We're cheering for you!

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  1. Lori, This is a powerful post creating wonderful mind pictures of those baby turtles making their way to the ocean. What a great analogy for raising children and letting them go...and another reason to praise God for His complex, beautiful creation!
    Thanks for sharing this. I'm so glad I read it!

  2. A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing, Lori. God bless you!

  3. How exciting, yet time consuming it must have been to cheer these babies on to their ultimate, inate destiny! What an exciting story about the way we cheer our own children on as they grow up on their way to adulthood, suggesting direction when they veer off course. Luv this post, Lori!.

  4. I remember a wise observation, Buffy, that I heard shortly after my eldest daughter was born. It went like this: "The decision to become a parent is to decide forever to allow your heart to go walking around outside your body." True, True! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Beautifully written! I too am sending a child off to college...exciting and scary for all of us.

    1. It'll make a prayer warrior out of you, that's for sure. May I recommend "The Power of Praying for Your Adult Child" by Stormie O'Martian? Powerful!

  6. I agree with Deanna, beautifully written. I cannot imagine sending a child off to college. My wee one is just 18 months old. I know I will blink and it will be me.

  7. I love this post! I'm about to send my only child to kindergarten and I too feel like I'm sending him off into the world. Beautiful post!

  8. You are. . . kindergarten is the first really big step, and I know you will bathe the process in prayer and will find God faithful with your dear one. God bless, and thanks for stopping by.

  9. What a breath-taking parallel! Yes, I remember this this bittersweet moment! And the cheering on and the praying --- especially the praying --- doesn't end here. God bless you, your daughter, all your family, in this new school year!

    1. Right you are, Sylvia, this is when the praying really begins! My inseparable companion is an amazing book by Stormie Omartian called "The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children." It keeps me focused and empowered. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. Lori...precious post. Thank you for sharing such encouragement at WJIM this week.


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