The place where my parenting journey began, is where this phase of it ended.
I welcomed my daughter in Arizona at the age of 17. Now, at 51, I am taking my youngest son to Arizona for college.
I was a mom at 17 YEARS OLD.
There was no “adult life” before kids for me. I had not graduated from high school yet. I was still a kid myself. Yet, here I was with a baby to care for at 17.
I had to grow up fast.
Now, 34 years later, my last has moved on to his next phase in life. Without me.
As it should be.
The part of parenting I have been doing for 34 years is over.
No longer will I have a child under my roof. No longer will I have to run errands for/with a child. No longer will I have to make appointments or conferences or buy school supplies. No more “talks” of instruction late at night in their room.
No longer will my life revolve around my child.
That’s not to say that it did completely.
I wasn’t a helicopter parent. I had my job and other things that were important to me. Truth be told, there were times when my kids didn’t always come first.
That’s just being honest. I’m sure the two older ones would agree with me.
Later in life, I was a far better parent – what’s that they say, with age comes wisdom – but I did my best based on what I knew. Believe me, I’ve done my share of apologizing to each of my kids and asked for their forgiveness of my failures.
Now….there is nothing in my home. No little one in my house that needs me, unless you count my dogs. That’s okay, but…
While I know most mean well, other empty nesters try to ‘encourage me’ by saying how great it is or how much I will learn to enjoy it. They know how I feel.
I don’t even know how I feel, how could anyone else possibly know?
My life isn’t/wasn’t tied up in my kids. Maybe for seasons of their lives I was, but not for extended periods of time. I miss my son, but not to the point of separation anxiety.
Raise them. Teach them. Send them. Always love them. Always be there for them. That’s it.
It’s not emptiness I am feeling, yet it is. It’s not grief that I am feeling, yet it is. It’s not the fear of the unknown that I am feeling, yet it is. It’s not depression that I am experiencing, yet it is.
It’s not any, yet it’s all of those and more.
Who was I at 17?
I was a girl with a dream to go to college and work in Communications, preferably in sports. I wanted to figure out who I was outside of my mother’s home.
Yet, I was also a girl with a lot of pain inside her heart. I was a girl looking for an escape and I found it.
In reality, what I found was that I had to grow up quickly. No luxury of figuring out who I was or what I wanted to do with my life while in college or even in the workplace.
Nope. Grow up and be a mom.
As I left my son at college, that time of my life hit me once again. And, I cried.
I cried because he was going to college. I cried because I am proud of him. I cried because of the uncertainty of it all. I also cried because of past loss.
He is living out a dream I once had. College. Independence.
He knows this. I told him as much. But, he also knows that I won’t live it vicariously through him. He is his own person. This is his life, not mine.
Still, I couldn’t help the emotions I felt as we walked the campus or when I hugged him goodbye. This phase of my parenting journey was ending – back in Arizona where it all began.
This full circle experience has left me empty – emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Maybe. Again, I’m not even sure how I feel.
They say college is where you grow up.
It’s one thing to take your last child to college. It’s completely another to take them to college in the state where your own life changed forever. He will be growing up in a vastly different way than I did, but in the same state.
I am so very grateful that God walked me through this path. If it wasn’t for his love and grace, I wouldn’t be here. It’s been painful, fulfilling, frustrating and joyful. It’s all those and more. He knew what it would take for me to find Jesus and He let it play out accordingly.
Now my son has his own opportunity to grow and find God.
He already knows Jesus. But, this opportunity allows him to learn about the world through God’s eyes. Through God’s heart. Through the mind of God.
Walking with God – this Christian life – isn’t for the feint of heart. Growth is demanded. Humility is required. Time and patience is essential.
My youngest is out of the nest, living the life I had planned. But, he is doing it his own way, with God on his side. My prayer is that God will light the way for him to follow on this journey outside of my nest.
His journey, not mine. Mine is heading down a different path (more on that later).
And that…is as it should be.