Preparing to Launch: As the Last One Leaves the Nest

Preparing to become empty nesters has been an interesting journey. Much like bringing children into this world, the emotions range from joy to dread of the unknown. As our last one leaves the nest we’ve done a lot of reflecting on what it has meant to be parents.

It was spring break, and our youngest was leaving to spend time with her cousin. I hugged her and whispered “I love you” then turned to get in the car. I couldn’t watch her walk away. The reality was she would be leaving again and soon. It wasn’t going to be a week-long trip next time – it would be for what seemed a lifetime. These thoughts left my emotions in a twisted mess. Once my husband was in the car I said: “I don’t know if my heart is ready for this again.”

Not So Long Ago

This will be our third daughter to serve an 18-month mission for our church. Our middle daughter came home just before Christmas, and our oldest returned a 2 ½ years before her. Each time they leave a little piece of my heart goes with them, and when they come home, I feel whole again. It sounds crazy, I know. But even as hard as it is to see them walk away, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If It’s So Hard, Why?
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I’ve always believed my most significant responsibility as a parent was to teach and encourage growth. I know from experience the most valuable lessons I’ve learned have not come without a little pain and discomfort.

Truth be told, it’s the best thing I can do as a mother. For a young adult, the ages of 18-25 are the most selfish time in their life. They don’t have a family to care for; their financial worries are at a minimum, they are free to do just about anything they want. Choosing to serve and do selfless work at a time when they can be so self-centered is a powerful life lesson. It is not a matter of “go sow your wild oats” but let’s develop life-long skills of charity, compassion, and hard work.

The most beautiful part of this choice is it is all theirs.  They want to go because they believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ with all their heart and want to share it with others. And I won’t hold them back because I believe the same. I’ve watched this experience change my other two daughters. They have become compassionate, confident, and faithful women. How could I allow my anxiety of separation keep them from becoming all they can be?

Saying goodbye to your children and their childhood is much harder than all the pithy sayings make it seem…It’s not a death. And it’s not a tragedy. But it’s not nothing, either.”

Beverly Beckham
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Is it hard to be a mom? Yes. Every late night feeding, major growth milestone, and life lesson taught has led to this moment — setting them free. Letting them go to live their life and hope you’ve taught them enough to not fail. But even then. Failure is a good teacher and nothing to fear.

As a mom, we undergo a type of metamorphosis. Changing with each new stage and phase of raising a child. This final change feels happy and sad; heavy and light; empty and full. Each feeling seems to contradict its companion, making me think maybe this final change isn’t so final after all. I don’t know where the idea of comparing our children to birds leaving the nest came from.  They are not birds and leaving the nest is not the end.  It is just the beginning of a new chapter.

Share your tips for when your last one leaves the nest in the comments below!

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11 thoughts on “Preparing to Launch: As the Last One Leaves the Nest”

  1. One thing I have learned over the last few years is that it is okay to feel whatever emotions we have. They are just that emotions… it is how we move forward that matters. I never really allowed myself to feel emotions growing up and much of my adult life because it scared me that I didn’t feel in control. Then the test of my life came upon me where my choice was to face them by letting them come out or have them continue to fester and make me feel as if I was being eaten alive.. I also was very stubborn in that believing failure was not an option. Now I welcome those opportunities because they teach me I need to humble myself and be reachable.

  2. I saw something some time ago on Facebook that took the word fail and converted it to an acronym First Attempt In Learning. It wasn’t until the last few years that failure became an option if I could change my perspective in gaining all I could in learning new things.

    1. I love this! What a wonderful perspective in raising our families and in how we teach our children about failure! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Time just flies no matter how much you wish it would stand still. Mine are still frutratingly hyperly little but I think often of the day they leave and I’m not wishing for it (most of the time) but you said this so beautifuly- you do have to let them go despite your desire to keep them with you always. Beautiful post. <3 Jamie

  4. I love your point that “failure is a good teacher and nothing to fear.” Failure is necessary for developing resilience, but it is hard to let our children fail and grow. When our girls were younger, I didn’t understand “Empty Nest Syndrome.” But as our first moves closer to launching, I realize how much I will miss being around them simply because of who they are and how much fun we have! #WanderingWednesday

    1. It is hard to understand what it feels like to have everyone gone when you are in the throes of raising them. I think one of the most important things we can teach our kids is failure is okay. There is such a stigma associated with it – and it is wrong. It is too easy to become paralyzed with fear because of failure. Thanks for the comment, Ashley!

  5. jenniferwise4heritagemakers

    I really, really love that quote! “It’s not nothing, either.” It’s this inexplicable change that is both happy and sad.

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