So grateful to have Shirsten Dreyer guest-posting today. Her perspective helps many of you who might need a little break from the male/laser-like/conquer-the-hill tone in my own posts. Today she shares some of her experiences about transitioning into that season of life when the birdies fly off from the nest. – Jeff
Someone recently asked me, “Are you and your husband as happy about being empty nesters as you appear to be on Facebook?” I think she was surprised when I answered, “Yes!” After all, shouldn’t the launching of children into college be a time of reflecting and remembering and weeping? I assured my friend that I have done plenty of those things, but when put in the proper perspective, I should be expectantly delighted about the next stage in life for my children. If I’ve done my job well, they should be ready to spread their wings. A pastor friend of mine once taught, “We are raising adults, not children.” That’s the end goal, right?
Empty nest has meant smaller grocery bills, less cooking (hallelujah!), less hectic evening schedules, and more concentrated quality time with my husband. I must confess that when the kids come home and destroy the quiet little haven my husband and I are enjoying, it takes me a while to readjust to the late nights, shoes left everywhere, dishes piled in the sink (will they EVER clean up after themselves without being reminded?!) and empty Pringles cans in the basement. I’ve had to check my irritation a few times and remind myself to rejoice that they want to come home, that they look forward to special dishes I cook, that they share about their lives, and that they feel relaxed and refreshed by visits with family.
Does this mean I never miss my kids? Of course not. The first 6 weeks my daughter was at college, I closed her bedroom door so I couldn’t see reminders of her staring back at me – her favorite fleece blanket, oodles of framed pictures, her makeup and hair products strewn across her dresser. And with each parting, I try to stifle tears until the kids have pulled out of the driveway – not as much sad tears that they’re gone as tears of joy and pride and abounding love for these two emerging adults whom I’ve had the privilege of raising. They are becoming such enjoyable people to be around, and now I see less and less of them, which truly does make me sad.
As the reality of having an empty nest approached us this year, I went through a season of examining my parenting and landing on some situations I wish I had handled differently. Launching children to college is a time of reflection on two decades of work, and it is only natural to evaluate the process. How I wish I could take back the times I reacted in exasperation or short-temperedness for minor infractions! And when I hear my own words or tone of voice turned back at me by my children, I want to implore them, “Don’t be like me in this regard! It’s not the part of me that I want to shape you!” How thankful I am for God’s grace and that His mercies truly are new every morning. I pray that God gives me opportunities to encourage and share some of those lessons with mothers who are facing similar struggles.
The clock is swiftly ticking closer to the day when my children will lead fully adult lives in another city, county, or state. I find myself hugging them longer at each parting, knowing that I will have fewer and fewer of those precious hugs in the years to come. So I store those treasured moments in the corners of my heart and mind, and I ask the Lord to guide and instruct those young adults. I also emulate my dear mother-in-law, who has prayed 3 John 1:4 over her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren for 70 years, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” That truly is the end goal.
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