My youngest starts college in the fall. I can’t believe it. There are so many mixed feelings that go along with this big milestone. There is joy and sadness, anticipation and excitement, and fear. Sometimes I get a little weepy when I think about it and sometimes I just feel numb. I am excited that my baby is fixing to burst forth from his chrysalis and soar off as a full-grown butterfly, ready to explore the world. Afterall , this was our goal, wasn’t it? It is an exciting time in his life for sure. However, I can’t help but feel that a little pity party is in order for myself. Afterall, my nest will be empty and it just doesn’t seem like that time should already be here. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was cuddling him in the hospital after his birth and marveling over his tiny little feet? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was rocking him to sleep in the wee hours of the night singing lullabies to him? Wasn’t it just yesterday when my friend and I met for breakfast and cried together because we had just dropped our oldest children off for their first day of kindergarten? Time really does fly. This is my baby – my child who didn’t talk until he was four, who we were told may never be independent, who we had tested for a number of genetic diseases known to cause speech/language delays. Now he is a healthy, robust 18-year-old finishing his senior year in high school, graduating with Highest Honors and in the top 3% of his class. He has made his mom and dad proud.
I have friends who have already entered the empty nest phase. Some entered it with grace and dignity and actually looked forward to it. Others bawled and squalled like there was no tomorrow. Then again, some, like me, are entering this phase of life with mixed emotions. Yes, there’s a little sadness there, but it’s also a very exciting time in my child’s life as well as my husband’s and my life too.
We’re not exactly new to this “letting go” thing. Our oldest son is a senior in college. We survived sending him off to school. We’ve survived first days of pre-school, kindergarten, middle school, and high school. We survived watching them both drive off for the first time behind the wheel of a car clutching that newly earned driver’s license. We survived first dates and first proms. And we felt a multitude of feelings with them all: happiness, joy, sadness, and yes, fear. Our first son has made us so proud since he left home. He’s made wise decisions, stood up for what he believes in, studied hard and shown a lot of maturity. We know our youngest will do the same. We have a lot of faith in him. He’s a good kid. They both are.
Leaving home brings so many changes to the family. Not only changes to the young adult starting college, but changes to the parents too. And I have never been one to care much for change. Our family will never be the same. Sure, the kids come home from college on breaks, but it is somehow different. Sometimes I wonder if I will know what to do with myself when my nest is empty. I have spent a lot of time lately wondering if I did everything I should have done in parenting my children. Did I do everything “right?” Did I teach them all they need to know to be self-sufficient adults? I wasn’t a perfect parent (who is?) and I made mistakes. I do have a few regrets or things I wish I would have done a little differently in my parenting, but I think that’s pretty normal. I won’t dwell on those. I think a lot about the “Serenity Prayer” at this time in my life and pray it often:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I’ve still got a few months to prepare a little for my empty nest so I’ll try to make the most of that time. I’m sure it won’t be easy and there will be some grieving to do. But I also look forward to what the rest of my life holds. I’ve spent the last 21 years raising my sons and I loved every single minute of it. I thank God for the past 21 years and I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me now. Empty nest, here I come.