A new school year is just around the corner which means an entire slew of parents will soon sprint, tip toe, or be yanked unwillingly into the empty nest club as a proverbial rite of passage. Over the years I’ve talked to moms and dads who run up and down the emotional gamut as far as what this transformation means. The spectrum is anywhere from parents who start counting the days years in advance excitedly anticipating “Act Two” all the way to those who dig their heels in attempting to defy the cosmic laws of inevitability.
Where do I stand within this muddy mire of mixed emotions? Glad you asked. I guess you didn’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Seems I am somewhere between digging in my heels attempting to defy the cosmic law of inevitability and digging in my heels attempting to defy the cosmic law of inevitability. Does this mean I am mentally refusing to accept the looming transition? Yes or yes? Don’t answer. I beg you.
My daughter will be the last to leave here in 10 days, 3 hours and 4 seconds and at that moment the earth will shift beneath my feet and the universe may just have to breathe for me a little while. What feelings will stir my heart when I walk away and leave my baby girl to embrace this new life of independence and adventure hopefully won’t be as grueling as what the projector keeps playing on my mind screen . To quantify the energy I have expended this summer doing my best at living “in the present” and enjoying my kids while they are still here, right in front of me without letting the waterworks flow every time reality whispers in my ear is impossible. I’ve only fallen apart in front of them about eight or ten times; a small miracle. I stopped counting the behind the scenes basket casers’. Like the other day when I bought a huge package of toilet paper to refill the kid’s bathrooms only to realize the toilets won’t be in use and extra toilet paper isn’t necessary. Tears and sobbing – over toilet paper. Pathetic.
Friends and family keep asking me, “So, how are you doing? Are you ready for this? What are you going to do with your life now?” Typically, I give the short and sweet, “depends on the moment, not sure and I have no idea” answer to each question. Thank goodness thought bubbles aren’t real because beneath this Cracker Jack box response lays a wellspring of turbulent feelings. Sometimes I can’t make sense of the tug of war within me. My kids are amazing; each one of them independent, confident, intelligent, faith-filled and courageous human beings. Both my boys adapted well to life away and my daughter will no doubt follow suit as she is strong, excited and more than ready to begin this new season.
What on earth am I so anxious about? This is the natural progression of life and I should just get over it and accept it – be thankful I have kids with a direction and the wherewithal, drive, aspiration and eagerness to better themselves and prepare their hearts and minds to do the world some good. God is a huge part of their life and they still love my hugs, willingly open their hearts to me, share their dreams, and admit their failures. I should stand tall and proud knowing I am sending off faithful children full of security and self-esteem. Being thankful, grateful and proud is so easy, yet my knees still buckle.
So, what’s my problem? It’s called, “I’m a mom”. To describe the feeling of loving a child is a limitless expression which embraces every adjective that comes to mind. It’s palpable, heavy, light, amazing, agonizing, hopeful, proud, anxious, beautiful, overwhelming, blissful, worrisome, expectant, fearful, exhilarating, maddening, indescribable, incredible, etc. The yin and the yang at every turn as we raise these miracles God has loaned us is unceasing. The journey is all-consuming in the best way possible. Then after eighteen years of loving on our kids like there’s no tomorrow, tomorrow comes. Motherhood as we know it tilts on its own axis within the realm of empty nest. Hands-on, face-to-face, completely enmeshed, we can see what’s really going on, orbital parenting is over for the most part. A new intrinsic approach to parenting ushers in which is basically a complete surrender trust in God mandate sugar-coated in a little phrase called “letting go.”
Let me tell you, letting go ain’t easy anyway you try to sugarcoat it. I’ve already let two fly from the nest and loving from a distance is eerily silent and profoundly void. Days once filled with loud music, laughter, drama, friends, sports, activities, homework projects, and chaotic meals give way to empty timelessness where only memories linger. As if navigating absentee motherhood isn’t challenging enough, we also have to turn in our coaches shirt for a cheerleading uniform as it pertains to parenting our children. They don’t need us calling the plays anymore. Their time has come to shine now and they need us on the sideline encouraging them along the way – especially when they screw up. No helicopter parenting or micromanaging from a distance. This may sound simple enough, but when your children have been your world and their existence and well-being consumes your days and such a significant paradigm shift takes place the transition is difficult. At least for me, this has knocked my equilibrium a bit askew. No, like a lot. In fact, most of my chakras are out of balance these days.
Which brings me to why living as an empty nester and loving our kids from a distance is the ultimate oxymoron. We can start with the throwback, overused statement that sending our kids off into the world is bittersweet because blah blah blah and yada yada yada. But I have a few other oxymorons with a bit more depth and emotion strapped to them which perhaps only a mother can comprehend. Since my last to leave the nest represents my third to go, your initial conclusion might label me as an amateur expert at this gig. More likely I’m an advanced beginner. Yes, I’ve already experienced how organized chaos morphs into loud stillness, but my emotional state moves like a calm storm where I am certainly unsure if I’m cheerfully mournful or a mournful optimist. How about acheerful pessimist? Some days I experience sad joy which is beautifully painful and leads to a great depression when I think of thegoodbye reception preceding the noticeable absence of all my children.
Soon I will wake up each morning to a deafening silence which could really be a loud whisper for me to accept this transition as aconstant variable I am certainly unsure about. Since there are no instruction manuals for moms entering this stage of life, wouldn’t I be practicing an arrogant humility if I try to pretend I’m not a train wreck? How to handle this new season of life is clear as mud which wakes me up in a cold sweat shivering in confident fear about my children’s futures. I’ve definitely been a deaf listener to the wisdom shared from those before me because stability in my mind these past few days has been conspicuously absent. Letting our kids go is not an easy task, in fact, I’m going to make an educated guess and say it’s actually quite difficult. But for the next 10 days, 1 hour and 11 seconds I commit to practicing convenient denial so as not to produce harmonious discord within my family as we give all three of our beautiful children wings to fly. The time has come for me to practice what I have preached to my kids all these years, that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
As I was writing this post a beautiful song came on I had never heard before called Holding On And Letting Go, by Ross Copperman. Definitely a God Stop moment as the lyrics are fitting. If you are a mom travelling this same road, take a listen. Here is a snippet.
“It’s everything you wanted, it’s everything you don’t
It’s one door swinging open and one door swinging closed
Some prayers find an answer
Some prayers never know
We’re holding on and letting go”
In Strength and Denial –
Connecting Heart-to-Heart in the Beautiful Kaleidoscope of Motherhood – http://shelbyspear.com