OK. I’m not an empty nester yet. I have a 15 year old and a 11 year old currently. My eldest daughter is a sophomore in high school and college feels really close. Not too long ago she was a child and not an adolescent. Just like my youngest daughter, she had play dates with friends and playground stories to tell. Now she is in high school. Her life is friends and her phone. I have to say I feel proud of how much she is a normal teenager, my teenager. I can already feel the pull on my heart as I consider her adulthood and possible life outside our home. My husband and I made adjustments, knowingly and unknowingly, when we entered parenthood. Less time for ourselves and each other. Financial commitments to our children above our own. Trips to Disneyland instead of Sonoma.
More burgers, pizza and Halloween candy than one person should consume. I love the life I have created with my husband and my children. I am also realizing that this life we have created is temporary. When my kids were young, I heard from older adults, “Enjoy this time because it goes so fast!”. I smiled in acknowledgment, but I was not living their reality. Time did not seem to move quickly until now. My youngest is now in middle school and she is already asserting her middle school independence. I want her to do so, but I also realized this is the beginning of the end. The end of volunteering in the classroom, the end of playdates, the end of signing homework, the end of picture books, the end of being a parent to a child. It sneaks up on us quickly. I wish someone had told me that the “empty nest” experience does not begin when they leave home, but really is a constant process that we are moving toward. I want my kids to develop and grow and be independent, secure humans, so I must acknowledge that this letting go process has been happening all along. I held them as babies and let them go to walk as toddlers. I held their hand as they learned to walk and then let them go so they could walk and explore the world on their own. I walked with them and then I let them go to walk on their own at school. I was aware of the moments I held on too long or let go too soon, but the ultimate result was letting go. I must also acknowledge that I must take care of myself and my experience if I am going to let them grow into independent, responsible, secure adults.
As an Marriage and Family Therapist I know in my head this is what is necessary, and as a parent in my heart I am feeling the words of those parents before me. It goes so quickly. If you are also aware of the importance to nurture yourself as well as your children, reach out to the support in your community and the resources at larkhood.com.