I don’t recall where I picked up the idea, but for several years I’ve been drying the petals of flowers my girls (or myself) have received so they can be used on their wedding day. It was a fun activity with a “someday” thought attached to it. Now, it’s a closer reality as my baby just turned 20. These are the years they will likely meet their future spouses (or perhaps know them already).
Like all the thoughts plaguing my mind in an increasingly quieting nest, the thought of them marrying is both exciting and nerve-wracking. I’ve always told my kids that you can easily change your wardrobe, food, house, location, job…but when you marry, it’s serious business. Follow God. Fall in love first, not lust. Be friends. Be sure. Really observe their parents, their friendships. Watch how your boyfriend/girlfriend handles a crisis, disappointment… how they treat others.We hope all of our investment in our children’s lives leads them to God’s best. One of my investments has been considerable prayer. I was praying about their “future spouses” long before they were dating. What I don’t know is who they will each choose. Free will is real and many pained parents have watched their beloved children suffer through horrible marriages. It’s not only the free will to choose poorly, but it’s the “big reveal” that sometimes happens to the poor souls who gave their heart to one person who turned out to be an entirely different human being once they married and lived together. Heartbreaking.
Marriage is unpredictable. The early years with young children can be tough. What we need at 25 isn’t always what we need at 45. It takes effort to evolve together. Marriage can be difficult.We want to save them from all the hardship. We want to talk and talk and talk in preparation to protect them from the miserable stuff. But, we know the reality. They will walk their own walk.
As my kids live out their early 20’s, I’m still doing a lot of talking 😉 even when they say, “I know, Mom. You’ve told us a thousand times.” I’m still praying. Our society is increasingly hurtful and as they marry and create their own nests, I pray those nests are safe places…warm, accepting-of-faults places. The place where they can escape from the cold, judging, desensitized world and rest and play and laugh.
I pray they marry into unconditional love.
And, I pray they give it in return.
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
I read this quote recently and thought of my kids who are all really good at “play”, even though they are now in their early 20’s. They are all playing college sports. The girls still play Just Dance together when they are home and dance until sweat drips down their beautiful faces. My son (gently) swings a golf club in the house and wanders around with a hockey stick in his hand! He is always trying to get guys together to throw a ball or play ice hockey when he’s home.
Over the holidays, when I was with my own kids, other 20-somethings and little ones, I played. I’m good at play when my kids are home on breaks. I sing (really poorly-pretending I’m an opera singer!), play cards, board games, play in the snow, visit the indoor golf range, dance with them and engage in other fun activities.
When my kids are away, I do not play. (Nice rhyme, huh? :)) It’s been hard to play the same when they are not around.
Why? Well, the first thing I could come up with is that we tend to be utterly ourselves in the presence of those we live with. We goof off with our bed-head hair and laugh without the ever-present self-consciousness we possess outside of the house. I am most comfortable with them. They are also fun people, so it’s easier to have fun when people are fun.
I had invited a few women over for an evening visit recently and I suggested we play a game. To my joy, they agreed and we ended up laughing and having a good time. After that, I had over some friends and we did a girls movie night. I realized that I need to start generating some “play” on my own since these kids of mine are spending less and less time in the nest.
Some adults are great at play, while others not so much. Many set aside time for weekly game night, poker night, couples night out or whatever. I just haven’t figured out my space yet. I’m better with the empty nest in recent months, but I’m still figuring out a few things, including my play time :).
One lesson I’ve learned is that half of “play” is getting it right in my mind. If “this” isn’t done, then I have no business playing. Wrong mindset. The chores, to-do lists, obligations…they never end. I have also learned to relax more with others, permitting myself to have real fun – absent kids. Play must be prioritized and not thought of as a luxury.
Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, reminds us that play “takes us out of a sense of time and place”. Source. As an adult, I tend to watch “time” more than necessary.
How often do we see kids jump out of the pool, run up to the house and ask, “Is it time to finish my chores? Should I get out of the pool to vacuum? Organize the basement?”
Kids are often unaware of time because they are enjoying themselves. Part of restructuring my life as a Mama whose nest is a little quieter these days includes giving myself permission to lose track of time…
It’s seven weeks into the semester and I’m profoundly feeling the effects of the empty-nest. The weekends are the worst, especially Sunday evenings. Some Moms get through this easier than others, but I’m struggling.
Saturdays were always slow mornings, since we went to church on Sundays. Breakfast, hanging out in PJs and then usually a soccer game in the crisp, fall air surrounded by the changing leaves. We would stop at the local cider mill afterward, picking up donuts and cider slushies. I stopped in on my own recently and wow, it just wasn’t fun.Sundays, I go to church alone. Sometimes I run a few errands and write a bit. I always cooked on Sundays and that heightens the sadness.
No, I don’t miss being in the kitchen for two hours chopping, preparing, cleaning and cooking…I do miss the end result of everyone around the table, eating and talking and bonding. I miss hanging out in the living room on Sunday nights deciding on a movie everyone would like. My older daughter made popcorn. I would yell at my son to put away his phone and just watch the movie :).
It sounds simple, but the little things like sports games, church, meals, their friends coming over and just the constant activity brought our home to life. It feels strangely lifeless.
Make no mistake, with all of that activity came frayed nerves and craziness that wore me out. My son annoyed me. My older daughter sometimes prioritized friends over family. Funny how when they are at college, I tend to forget these things. A little peace and quiet should be welcome.
My work is isolated. I have a home office and in the last year (ironic timing with the baby leaving for college), I decided to teach exclusively in our online program. It pays more and I live in the country. I don’t miss the drive into the city campus, but now I have even less communication with other humans. So, I’m looking for a different job. Not to mention, higher education is nothing like it once was and I’m eager to move forward.
Last month, I started volunteering more, began a couple projects I’m really enjoying and made sure to book some girlfriend outings on the calendar. Still, I’m a Mama. It’s not only how I largely defined myself but I actually enjoyed it. They still need me but it’s sooooooo not the same.
My kids all face time me, call and text every day. We also have a family snapchat and family group text. I hear all of this communication is unusual so I’m really grateful. They are cool kids who tell me all about their experiences (good and bad!), and I am truly thankful.
Like starting the first day at a new high school, groups have already been established and I’m wandering from place to place, looking forward to landing in two or three new things that will slowly build this new, peculiar life. Other parents move on and I will too, but it’s a struggle. I also recognize that I must because my kids need to see their Mom happy and secure.
My twins are a few hours away so I was able to see my son a couple weeks ago and we got a hotel room to extend the time we could visit. Quite joyfully, my daughter recently called to say her roommates are leaving this coming weekend and she wants me to come and stay at her apartment just the two of us! She’s making all sorts of plans and I’m stupid-excited. I’ll be cooking on Friday, jumping in the car with the birds on Saturday, stopping at my son’s apartment to drop food and treats to him en route to my daughter’s university an hour past his.
Mondays are welcome mornings for me. After feeling sad on Sunday nights, Mondays feel fresh, like anything is possible, I just need to keep working toward the new goals.
“For everything there is a season…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
I dropped off my twins to their freshman year of college in late August. Separated for the first time in 18 years, they are at different schools, in the same state, but two states away from the nest. Like many parents, the lump still forms in my throat as I type the words.
For me, the last year and half were a thousand times more challenging than having three children under the age of two. The baby and toddler years? Easy-peasy compared to raising teenagers, going on college visits, and the actual moving-away-to-college process. Can I tell you? I. Was. Emotionally and Mentally Exhausted. by the time they left.
The last few weeks leading up to their departure, our dining room and great room were overtaken by the massive amount of stuff needed to dorm. My Mama’s heart comforted itself thinking of how neat the house would be when the “stuff” was out. On many summer days, I briskly wiped away tears, reminding myself of all that I would have the time to do after 18 years of parenting busy-ness. With now only one athlete at home instead of three, games and practices would be minimal, and the baby got her license the week after her siblings left for college. My goodness… the time I would have!
I would join another Bible study; preferably Beth Moore, so there would be plenty of homework to keep me busy.
Organize more, exercise more, volunteer more, restart my blogging…
Adopt at least one new hobby that I’d pushed aside over the years as I bought groceries washed and chopped vegetables cooked the meals cleaned the bathrooms cleaned the floors did the laundry …
If you’re a parent, you get it. You also know that all the same chores are required post-college-drop-off, just perhaps a bit less frequently and the cooking, a bit less plentiful.
Then I decided to go from part time to full time (temporarily) for the first time in 20 years, and I continued doing all that I had previously. My goal? Do all things perfectly (or close to it). This would surely bring satisfaction.
Within two weeks I felt worse than ever, exasperating the sadness that was just settling in over my half empty nest.
My baby came home from the 11th grade and said she was very excited about her guest speaker in entrepreneur class that day. “Mama I wish you could’ve been there. I thought of you the whole time.”
Did she think I was soon to be an entrepreneur?
“The lady was a life coach and she said that taking care of yourself is important. It’s not a bad thing and that everybody should do it. And, I don’t mean exercise mom! I just mean doing something fun just for yourself.”
While my mind and heart raced, thinking that I was a terrible example for her, I was at least grateful that she recognized that I exercise regularly. I was also terribly sad that in her eyes, I don’t have much “fun”. And, it’s true. I don’t.
Unless my kids are around.
We sing. I dance to just about anything, making all three of them very uncomfortable. My youngest and I have full-blown Taylor Swift concerts on car rides. We just goof off. My fun is largely dependent upon them and as any mid-life Mama knows, those bursts of laughter in the kitchen and silly games and endless flows of teenagers in the house s l o w s d o w n …
Adding more to-do and adding more pressure to make everything great – (since remember: now I would have the “time” to make all things even better), just left me miserable.
Since that late week in September, I pulled out bunches of scribbled-on papers. The words that a writer keeps writing, even though she doesn’t think it’s “perfect enough” to post to her neglected blog site.
I upped my yoga to four-five times a week. In my living room, on my yoga mat, with the same 4-pack DVD. The poses aren’t “perfect”, but my herniated neck disks feel much better.
I returned to the gun range and even though my target practice is far from “perfect”, I love the focus of the sport.
When I’m tempted to skip the yoga because the carpet needs vacuuming, I remind myself that 20 years of vacuuming has not gotten me anywhere. I’m a firm believer that a house should be in order, but as my kids get older, my example as a woman is just as important as it is to be their Mama. (See, like that sentence is not perfect, but I’m not going to revise it. And, this post is longer than it should be but I won’t proof to shorten it.)
I cannot wait to exercise until all the dishes are done and the floors are picked up like I’ve always done. For me, I can’t just do the dishes and be satisfied. I must clean the sink, wipe the edges, it’s ridiculous. There are always chores. It never ends. Then there are holidays and birthdays to plan, to prep, to make p e r f e c t.
When I run down to the basement simply to put away the pumpkin lights and I’m tempted to re-organize all the Christmas boxes for three hours, I don’t. The only one who cares about that “perfect” organization is me and it’s again, ridiculous.
I won’t be proofreading and revising my blog posts 17 times before publishing them. This bothers me greatly, but I’m doing it anyway :). The themes of my posts will also be all over the place, and I’m going to post them anyway. Thanks to all the followers who stuck around this year and kept peeking to see if I was back on line. I was humbled and grateful when I logged back on.
I wrote this down years ago and apologize that I don’t know who said it: “Perfection will kill your giftedness.”
Perfection is not my goal. If I’m supposed to be more perfect in Christ that means leaning on Him, and not continuously, silently labeling myself “less than”. This is part of why I’m no longer very much fun: if “it” – whatever “it” is – isn’t perfect, then I’m dissatisfied. I know, it’s ridiculous, but feeling this way has been very normal for me. It’s also been normal to only have real “fun” if my kids are around. This too has to change.
It’s been a little nuts becoming a mid-life Mom and raising three teenagers. Perfecting what I could helped me cope with other things that spiraled in ways I couldn’t control. But, no longer. Now, I’m imperfectly moving forward.