“And just like that, they’re gone.”

 

Parenting is hard.

Excruciating, even.

Remember when you brought your child home from the hospital? How tiny he was? How compactly he fit into your arms, as you held on tight, navigating the exit of your car as you brought him into your home? Remember how odd it felt to finally see this tiny little creature who had been crushing you, twisting inside your body as you tried to sleep?

Of course you do. Those memories are imprinted in your DNA.

And now….his car has left the driveway…for the last time. Surely, there will be visits, and phone calls and all the rest of it…but…he’s gone.

He’s left the nest.

I’m sorry.

It’s such a juxtaposition, isn’t it?

All of these years, you’ve counseled, taught, punished, praised and shaped him into the man that he is today. You knew, quietly, in the back of your mind, that this day would always come…but somehow…that misty day from your subconscious has arrived, in all of its awkwardness, pain and complexity. It’s a day to rejoice, because you’ve done your job well. You were given an infant, and you have returned to the world a man of character, strength and justness.

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Well done, my friend. Very well done.

Yet….the pain…it’s excruciating. Those arms that guarded his tender body so fiercely now ache, in a kind of ghost pain that you don’t understand, and never anticipated. Half-formed words die on your lips as you catch yourself telling him things that he is no longer there to hear. You alone catch the invisible pause as you set the table for dinner, and only you are aware of the mental re-calculation of recipes.

I’m sorry. It’s part of the price.

You are given, for such a short time, the gift of another soul. To mentor, to love and to shelter. The system is designed that you will only have this gift for a moment, so that you, and he, might bless the world. He has his own gifts waiting, and he won’t find them unless he looks. He has his own challenges, his own joys, his own treasures to find.

So you must let him go, to seek. You must recognize the loss, but expectantly look forward to the gains. They will come, my friend. There will still be moments when you rejoice, just as you did when he took those first awkward steps across your living room carpet. He is now stepping awkwardly across our continent, and it’s okay to cry a little now too, just as you did then, because these steps are just as significant.

Treat yourself kindly during this transition, with gentleness and grace. You have sort of just given birth, again–to a man, this time, not a baby. You will recover, but it will be physically, emotionally and spiritually hard, and it will sometimes sneak up and clobber you when you least expect it. Others around you may not understand, and that’s okay…they’re on their own journey, so they don’t have to understand yours. They should respect it though, as you do theirs, but they shouldn’t mock you, or tell you to hurry up in your healing.

Because here’s the thing: you’ve done it. This monumental goal that you had established those many years ago has been successfully completed.

As he waved those tiny fists at the world so long ago, (even though it seems like yesterday), you promised him that you would take care of him, and make sure that he had every chance for success you could offer. You promised him that you would keep him safe, and love him unconditionally, so that he would learn, and grow, and thrive.

You gave him all of those things. You did it. You made it.

Congratulations, Friend.

He’s launched.

So open yourself a bottle of champagne. While you’re at it, get yourself some chocolates and tissues. Have a great big pity party if you need one, we’ll all wait. Know that you are loved, you are supported, and you are a woman of strength, courage and character. You’ve got this. You might feel a little shaky, but you’ve definitely got this.

Hmph. Know what else, Girlfriend? He’ll be fine. I promise. 

He’s got you for a mom, doesn’t he?

 

You may also enjoy:

Motherhood Won’t Go Away, Even When the Child Does

10 Ways to Survive Your Empty Nest

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**Chanler Jeffers is a woman who has seen many extraordinary things over her lifetime. An adventurer, survivor, overachiever and advocate of kindness in all instances, she has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and is a member of their Circle of Champions. She has had the good fortune to live and travel all over the world, grew up as a military dependent, was a single parent for many years, has survived cancer and gently shaped countless people over her years on this little planet we call home. Follow along as she shares her knowledge, her experience and her love. Oh, by the way–one more thing. She’s married to a Bass playing rock star, lucky girl.

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. As a Step Mother of a teenager that will soon be spreading her wings and going away to college, I get teary eyed when I imagine her not being in our home. I know it will be even harder for her Dad. My own “baby” will probably be leaving the nest in about 7 years. It seems so far away but I know in reality it isn’t. Time flies so quickly! Thank you for your insight.

    1. Yes, these will be difficult transitions for you, no doubt! Part of the joy of parenting is seeing their success as a reward for all of your hard work; part of the crushing pain of parenting when you watch the very same thing! Stand strong beside your husband, and know these things will give you opportunities to make your marriage even stronger. I wish you and yours every success, and thanks so much for your note!

  2. Just wanted to say thank you for this. My youngest son just graduated and is headed for the Marines in a week. I’ve been a single momma for the last 10 years. I so needed this today. As my tears continue to flow I just want to let you know I appreciate your willingness to write and encourage others. Thank You!

    1. Oh, Dawn–thank you so much for this beautiful feedback! I was a single parent, too–letting go is so, so hard! Please accept my virtual hug, and know that I appreciate your son’s willingness to serve on our behalf. I completely understand the toll all of this is taking on your heart. Your comments are a gift to me, and I promise you’ll get through this. Blessings!

  3. Oh my gosh, thank you! This is my world in this moment. You put into words what my heart is aching over. I tell myself to suck it up and celebrate this season but I’m grieving. Thank you. I feel slightly normal for feeling such a great loss and rejoicing at the same time.

    1. You’re very welcome, Shannon! Thanks so much for your feedback. The Empty Nest phase is an incredibly complex time in our lives as women. Part of us rejoices, because we can finally put down some of the responsibilities we’ve been carrying for years, but the other part of us goes through a genuine grief. My experience has been that some days the grief is stronger, and some days the sense of freedom is stronger.You are perfectly normal to feel this mish-mash of conflicting emotions!! Thanks again for your comment. Blessings!
      ~Chanler

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