Ahhh spring. I see your eyes are watering. Could it be seasonal allergies or something else? If you are living with a senior, it could just be those tears are the beginning of empty nest syndrome. It can strike you at any time with little to no warning.
Mine started at this time last year; let me tell you, it was ROUGH! Even though I had heard about empty nester syndrome, I did not expect it to hit me as hard or as long as it did. A year later, I have a little perspective.
Transitions are hard. Of course, we want our kids to grow, learn, explore, and eventually build their own life. That is part of being a parent, but that does not make the transition easier. I’ve learned that grief always comes back to me and the perspective I hold. How does this transition impact me as a mother? What is my new role? Grieving for what is left behind is as important as embracing what new experiences lay ahead. As you let go of the grief, allow a little space for the joy of what new adventures await.
Expectations are real. Whether we realize it or not, we have big dreams for our kids. Those dreams are 100% owned by us while, simultaneously, 100% out of our control. So when your child chooses beauty school over a university or flies halfway across the country for school instead of your alma mater an hour away, it’s tough because it is not what we wanted for them. Letting go of what we want allows us to accept and embrace the life they create.
They aren’t ready. They leave the stove on after heating spaghetti o’s, lights on when they leave the house, and the front door unlocked when they come in the wee hours of the morning. They need you to do their laundry so they have a clean uniform for work, barely make enough for gas and car insurance, and their cat would starve if you weren’t there to feed it. Yet, they plan to get a house with a couple of other kids who are not ready as soon as they can move out of the dorms. And you are the one that has to sign the lease!!! Trusting that they will figure it out is hard. Trust me, I know. Give them a soft place to land as they navigate all the new responsibilities they are stepping into.
They will never be ready. Being a parent is a lifelong commitment. Some kids come to the planet with a lifetime need for full-time care. Not only can physical and cognitive challenges make our child’s journey unique, but there is a mental health crisis in our country, and many of our kids are not ok. Walking the path of life with our children, seeing them to their fullest potential, whatever that may be, is truly all we can do.
Plans can, often do, and probably will, change – A change in their major, University, dropping out, taking time off, another change in major, not fitting in, not getting along, making mistakes, learning lessons, real drama, lots of tears. It is all part of it, and you know what? They don’t care what we think. They don’t want our advice. Watching your child struggle is like throwing a life raft to a drowning blind man. The help is right there, but…
It isn’t our job to fix it. That is my mantra, and I have to repeat it to myself, in my head, daily as I pretend to hear my adult child and their latest woes.
So what did I do? I allowed joy in the newfound space where my child’s energy once lived. I got to know my spouse again. I jumped into my work and returned to what I used to do before becoming a mommy. I rekindled old friendships or nurtured new ones. I enjoyed the time because, as a wise mother told me when I was sobbing, “You think they are leaving, but trust me, they always come back.”