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?
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– Beverly Beckham
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.