I was ready for it in August of 2020. I had been vacillating between dread and exhilaration about the fact that I would be an official Empty Nester when my son and daughter went off to college out of state.
I knew I would miss them terribly, but had done the emotional prepping and dreaming about what my “new life” would be like when it was just me and my husband (for whom I was feeling pre-sorry, knowing that my emotions would be sort of chaotic and he would be the only one left to deal with me!). But it was time. I was as ready as I could be. My youngest two were moving on simultaneously to new adventures.
That was my plan. God had different plans, and how dare He! 😉
Because of Covid, what was supposed to be a fresh new beginning for all of us, turned in to a stale new beginning of isolation and disappointment and mundaneness. We made the best of it, but none of what we had planned out came to fruition. It was a shock to all of our systems. We struggled to adapt to the new plan, which forced us to grind it out for the next 7 months.
Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to have them home, but not at the expense of their dreams and to be honest, I had really been looking forward to only cooking for two!
Fast forward to today, February 2nd, 2021. It’s been about 3 weeks since I dropped Emma off to live and do on-line school in California. A month before that, Bennett moved down the street and took his cat with him. All of a sudden, I got what I thought I wanted, and because it happened so fast, I was slightly ill-prepared this time around.
I am just now beginning to get used to it. I am just now allowing myself to lean in to it. For awhile I would walk past Emma’s room each morning and cry a little. She is about 1800 miles away and it feels strange. At least I get to hug Bennett once a week or so since he comes for dinner or to watch sports with his dad.
The other day I was at work and had the realization that no one needs me for anything until about 6:30 at night–Every. Single. Night. No one is asking “what’s for dinner?” How could this be? I have spent 24 years tending to the needs/wants of my children. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself!
Another thought that has come to me lately, is: “I made it!”. I managed to raise 3 children without letting them get maimed (aside from a slew of broken arms) or hit by a car or kidnapped by a stranger or having to call poison control. They managed to survive on a steady diet of mac-and-cheese and hot dogs as children without getting scurvy. Though they don’t always follow my rules or my plan or find me all that wise, we seem to be able to hang out and still love/like/tolerate (depending on the day) each other. All of these are things I do not take for granted and know that any success I have had in parenting has little to do with me and everything to do with God working in spite of me.
I am, however, keenly aware of something a wise older mom told me once when I was exasperated with the daily task of chasing small children around: “When they are little they have little problems and when they are big, they have big problems.” At the time, I felt like I would have traded one of my kidneys for a big problem that didn’t wake me up crying in the middle of the night!
I now know of this phenomenon of which she spoke. If I am not careful, I can worry myself to death about these out-of-the-house children. Will they brush their teeth, bathe, or remember to go to the dentist? Will they eat a vegetable or some fruit if I don’t buy it or remind them? Will they ever wash their underwear or sheets? Do they even know how to boil water or peel their own apple? Or on the more serious side, will they ever go to church or pray or find a career or a wife/husband or fulfillment in their inner selves? I have found myself obsessing about such questions as any mom may be tempted to do. But I am learning a better way. A prayer that keeps me sane and keeps me from interfering and trying to control the lives of children that no longer live under my supervision. As much as I want certain things for my children, I have to learn to let them go and let God take care of them. He knows what’s best for them.
God has kids, not grandkids. In other words, He is developing his own relationship with my kids outside of me. He doesn’t have to go through me to get to them or vice-versa. I am on the outside looking in. My job now is much more simple; love them and trust God with them.
Any time I begin to feel anxious or think fearful thoughts about my kids (or anything, for that matter), I say, often out loud: “Oh Jesus. I surrender Berkeley, Emma, Bennett, my job, my marriage, my blog, etc. to You. Take care of everything.” And then I move on with my day. It’s a humble turning over of matters that are out of my control and problems that do not belong to me.
Most of you have probably seen the famous Christmas movie, Home Alone. In the midst of his family preparing to leave for Paris, Young Macaulay Culkin gets left behind. When he finally realizes he is all alone in his house, he is sad. At first. And then, as he thinks about the stress and chaos of what life was like with everyone home, a sneaky, knowing smile takes over his face and he starts running around the house doing all the things he couldn’t do under the watchful eye of his parents or siblings.
That’s a pretty good description of the transition I am feeling. At first, I would cry and sort of wander around my house aimlessly. I felt sorry for myself and wondered what in the world I was going to do with myself now that I didn’t have to “take care” of anyone.
But now, well, I have to admit, I am a little more like the kid who is free to run around the house doing whatever he wants! A smile is starting to creep across my face and the empty, sad sensation is slowly blooming into hope and anticipation of what this new freedom means.
All I know, is that God will make it into something beautiful if I continue to pray, “Oh Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.”
For now, I think I might just take a nap in the middle of the day and have cereal for dinner. Because I can. 🙃