The Empty Nest
For years now I have said that when the time comes that the empty nest won’t bother me. After all, it will mean more time for me to do the things I love and I’ll have known my birds have flown the coop and are ready for the adult world. No one warned me that it happens before retirement when you might have other things to distract you.
I wish that someone had warned me, or perhaps that I’d listened, that there would be times when I’d feel extremely lonely. There would be times when the house is so quiet you long for any type of kid noise, even if it was the girls fighting again. That animals are great company, but they don’t talk and tell you about their day. That husbands and wives can reconnect, but husbands are still working and so you have many hours to fill all by yourself. Some days it does not bother me. I have my writing, I have my pets, I have friends and family close. Then, there are days that drag forever.
I wish someone had warned me how hard it is to get used to shopping and cooking for two people again. How sad it is that there are events that the adult kids aren’t interested in going to and you can’t really make them because they are adults after all.
I wish I’d known how fast childhood zips by. When they were very little and caring for them was labor intensive, the days seemed long. And, while I enjoyed every moment of their growing up years, when I look back on it, I wish I’d taken more time to sit on the floor and play, to go on adventures, to share my heart with them, and most of all I wish I’d spent more time pouring God’s word into them. While I did this, I do feel my focus at times was on teaching others and helping others and I did not put the focus where it should have been – on my kids.
Before you know it, it is time for them to go into the world and you suddenly realize that there is so much more you want to say. There are lessons you never got to or maybe you lectured at them and they tuned you out. You wonder if they know how much you love them, the hopes and dreams you have for them, and if they know that you are their safe, soft landing if they need one. That you love them fiercely even if you disagree with them.
There will be times when you’ll see a family out or a mom out with kids. Your mind will immediately leap back to those days when you were so busy raising your kids that you didn’t have time to enjoy your kids. You’ll be tempted to tell the other mom to embrace this time, but then you usually just say something like “they grow up so fast.”
No one ever believes that statement when they are in the midst of raising their children. It is only after they are grown that you look back and realize just how fast it all went by.
There are days when I am so proud of the women my daughters have become. I feel like I must have done at least some things right. There are other days when I wish I could shrink them back down into small children and do it all again. Only teach the important things, not nag them as much, not worry that they might be bothering someone else, and just take time to have more fun.
They are their own people now, with their own views on life, politics, love, and everything else. Some of those ideas line up with mine and some do not. While I still am a part of their lives and I still do my best to speak truth into their lives, it is a fine balancing act between angering them because they think I’m interfering or nagging and fighting for the things I care about in their lives.
Most of all, the biggest change that I didn’t see coming, is just how often I do have to bite my tongue and then go to my prayer corner in a quiet spot in my office and take it to the Lord. I have truly had to learn to let go of some things and trust in His plan for my children. After all, they are God’s first, and even though I love them and want the best for them, my vision is murky. This is not easy for a control freak like me, but I’m working on it.
I find myself thinking about their future and the big impact decisions now have. Even small things, like what major they choose in college, how long they stay in a job, can result in problems later. I wish I could impart the wisdom of having lived 46 years right into their brains. Instead, I suspect they think Mom is old, outdated, old-fashioned, and clueless. They’ll learn. One day their children will leave home and they’ll realize mom knew a thing or two.
My daughters are also at a time where they may soon meet the men they’ll one day marry and bring into our family. Ever since I was pregnant with my youngest and my oldest was about 2 and 1/2, I have prayed for these men they will one day marry. I have prayed very specific prayers for the type of men they will be, how they will love the Lord first and foremost and then my daughters through the Lord’s eyes. I have prayed for these men very specifically, I know their traits, and I know that God is faithful to answer the prayers of those who cry out to Him. Still, I worry.
I worry that they’ll not choose the man God has planned for each of them. I worry if the person each marries will fit into our family. Will I be able to at least tolerate them? What if they have vastly different viewpoints on big issues that matter a lot to me? Will I be able to at least be kind and not alienate these men? Surely the men I’ve prayed for will line up with God’s word? I know these young men, after all. I’ve been praying for them since they were little or perhaps even before they were born.
So, I find myself more and more often going into prayer warrior mode for my children and for the people in their lives and the circumstances they find themselves in.
So, mommies, when people tell you “they grow up so fast,” they truly do. There will come a day, and it isn’t as far away as you think, when you long for the sound of children running through the house playing and the neighbor kids grabbing Popsicles out of the freezer. You’ll long for the sleepovers with a dozen rowdy young people chattering and acting silly. You’ll long for the conversation and the buzz of family life. Because, once they move out, your home grows quiet and still. All that’s left then are memories of busier times and the promise of possible grandchildren one day who will hopefully visit enough to again give you those moments of pure joyful noise in your home.