Empty Nesting…

So what does it mean to have an empty nest? It can appear many different ways at various stages in our life.

Today is the “last first day of high school” for my youngest daughter. Just writing that sentence creates a huge lump in my throat and tears beginning to stream down my face. As my girl embarks on her Senior year in high school, so many memories come flooding in. The first thing that comes to mind, is all about her first day of kindergarten.

The school that she attended had full day kindergarten and that was so hard for me. I was so excited for her to be able to go to school with both of your big sisters. And goodness… I had not been at home alone, by myself, without any children there, for 12 years!  TWELVE!

At the time, we only lived about 16 miles from their school, however with Southern California traffic, that actually meant about a 30-45 minute drive each way. As I was driving home and neared our street, I immediately started sobbing. I was excited to “get my days back,” but suddenly that reality actually terrified me! What in the world was I going to do with myself?

Instead of continuing up the street to return home, I turned down the nearest side street and headed straight from my husband’s office that was a few miles away. I walked in the door to his office and continued my sobbing. He thought something had a really gone wrong at school drop-off. He had been there after all, with me and the other parents, waving to our little cherubs, smiling on the outside, as these darling little ones ran off to class with barely a hug and a kiss goodbye. I has stood just out of view of the large windows of the kindergarten classroom, along with the other mothers, pondering with them, ” Where does the time go?”

Mom’s who are experiencing this “drop-off” phenomenon for the first time looked to me as the veteran mom. I had done this twice before so it should be easy. Right? HA!  Not in the least bit! And just in case you’re wondering, yes…the tears are now rolling freely down my face! So why was it so hard the third time around? Well technically it was the third time I had dropped off one of my girls for their first day of kindergarten, but it was the first time for THIS ONE…my LAST ONE!  It was the first time that I was dropping her off to go to school or she would be away for me for so long for five days in a row!  I had done it before and I knew it was going to be okay, but I was still a little sad.

So what did I do with my new found “freedom.”  Well, I can tell you what I didn’t do… I didn’t go home for TWO WEEKS!

Every day I would drop my girls off at school and find other things to do. It just seemed too weird to go home. I spent a lot of time at Starbucks, way too much time at Target, and even began occupying an unused desk & computer at the company where my husband worked. Luckily he was part owner of the company, so I felt pretty free to come and go as I please. By the end of that second week, as I was enjoying a glamorous lunch with my husband across the street at Costco, he boldly told me, “Babe, next week you have to go home!”

I thought it was the meanest thing he had said to me in a long time.  Go home???  Well, I had drank way too much coffee, and there couldn’t possibly be anything left a Target for me to purchase. My husband encouraged me to embrace the new adventure that God had for me…The adventure of home alone. What an incredibly odd way to put it – Really? An adventure?

So…I did it!  The following Monday, the beginning of the third week of school – I. Went. Home.

I sat in my car in the driveway for a little bit, and then figured I may as well get it over with. I walked into a very quiet house and sat down on the couch and proceeded to have myself a good little cry ~ then decided to get on with my day. And then I did something I haven’t done in about 12 years… I took a nap after lunch! It. Was. Glorious!

I set my alarm so that I wouldn’t be late to pick up my sweet girls from school. And of course, I slept through the alarm. So as I was frantically getting ready, I began calling out from my little one to put her shoes on and meet me at the front door so that we could go pick up the girls from school.  She didn’t answer.  I didn’t hear any footsteps hopping down the stairs.  I looked for that child for about 10 minutes or so. Then I started panicking that I had slept so well, maybe she had gone outside without me realizing it. I looked in her room, under her bed, in her closet, and then in every other bedroom on the house! I looked outside.  I even looked in the little koi pond that we had in the back yard. I stood on the front porch calling her name.  I ran to the end of our driveway looking up and down the street calling her name. I went back in the house and started to cry, because I thought I had lost my girl.

I bet you see where this is going!

As the tears were beginning to cease, I felt the presence of the Lord as He was trying to calm me down.  I heard his voice whisper to my heart, “You haven’t lost your girl… She is one of the ones that you are going to go pick up school.”  I imagine the Lord telling me this with a smile on His face. So I grab my keys and my purse, and walked out to the car secretly hoping that none of my neighbors had just witnessed my little freak out! I did a lot of praying on the way to school to pick the girls up, and knew I would tell them the story. Of course they thought it was really funny! I said, and not for the first time, “Just wait until you have kids!” Because you know, kids love hearing that!

So now, here we are today 12 years later and instead of waving to my little one through the open door of the kindergarten classroom, my husband and I, waved goodbye as she drove herself off to the first day of her Senior year in high school…all on her own!

I have definitely learned to enjoy those days at home by myself. I haven’t always been productive as I should be, but that is a tale for another time.  But I simply wasn’t prepared for the sorrow that accompanies these stages!  I thought I cried hard after dropping off our girls to kindergarten… There was nothing like the big, ugly cry that occurred as I dropped off my first child for college away in another state! Same thing with the second one, and she is across the ocean! Every time one of my girls have left home, it has been a challenge at times, to get through my day without a wave of sadness coming over me. It just isn’t the same without everyone here, and quite frankly I don’t really like it!  Even through the sadness, I’m joyful to see how my children have grown into incredible women!!

No one really prepare you for the slight ache in your heart as you reach those milestones in your child’s life. Kind of like no one really tell you how painful labor can be…You just have to go through it yourself! The thing that gets me through the days that are harder than others, is the fact that I have basically done my job pretty darn well. My husband and I, definitely with the Lord’s help, have raised three amazing young women who are confident in who the Lord has created them to be. And they know they always have a safe place to come back to. Home.

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{Take a sweet moment here to reflect on this beautiful verse and give praise to the Lord for whatever your nest looks like today.}

I love to see how God has brought each of them into their own personal relationship with Him. I love to see them pursuing what God has for them. I never really thought about the days when they would leave home, but I don’t think were supposed to do that. We need to cherish every single day, even the one with poopy diapers, throw-up that never seems to stop, and every other moment of somewhat irritating and frustrating experiences. I’ve come to realize that those “learning opportunities” are not just for them, they are for us as the parents too.  Just as our child grows, we grow too. It is an astonishingly hard thing to take those next steps as we watch our children grow into young adults and move on with the next part of their life. But it is quite exhilarating as well!

I know that my girls’ graduation day in 10 months will come a lot faster than I want it to. But I have determined that instead of walking through this year as the “the last time that…”, I am going to view it as opportunities to allow my daughter’s accomplishments throughout the year, to shine and appreciate EVERY moment. I am going to choose to grow in my relationship with her and with the Lord, even in times that prove to be frustrating. Because I know that God will never waste any opportunity for us to go closer to Him!

And what will next year bring when she goes off to college? Or where ever God has planned for her to go? The only thing that I know for sure is there will be yet another moment of some big ole ‘proud & joyful mama ugly tears’. But that’s OK.

                                 Because as I cry those tears over my nest that seems empty,                                                                  I know God will save those tears and He will use them to water that nest.

I truly am delighted and excited to see what grows in the future for my family.

Blessings,

René

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{photo cred: Christine Guité)

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