~ The below is an excerpt from my book Empty Nest: Strategies To Help Your Kids Take Flight ~ this is post 2 of a 5 week series.
I wasn’t surprised when Nathan expressed interest in enlisting in the Marine Corps; I just wasn’t expecting such a huge announcement to be made at the dinner table. But that is what happened, proof that life can change in a matter of moments. Even though Nathan’s decision was based on a lot of well-gathered information, prayer, and discussion, I wasn’t ready for it to be so final. So abrupt.
“Tomorrow, after I go wake-boarding with my friend,” Nathan stood up to clear his plate, “I am going to the recruiters’ office to finish up the paper work I need to join the Marines.” I looked at him in shock.
“Wha..wha..what?” I stammered.
John was totally calm, while I had enough adrenaline for a whole squadron of parents.
My reaction wasn’t really about Nathan doing what I knew he wanted to do or go where he felt he needed to go. It was about me. I had been the maker of grilled cheese sandwiches and the keeper of childhood traditions like making homemade Play-Doh on rainy days and teaching the kids how to make mazes on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. Now, I was feeling displaced, vulnerable and no longer needed. I wasn’t ready for things to change in our family. Nathan was ready to leave the nest; I just wasn’t ready to let him go.
Nathan wasn’t the only one ready to stretch out his wings. Emma was right behind him. She decided to graduate early and head for the small Micronesia island of Saipan for six months where John’s sister, Beth was a teacher.
Our first two kids left the nest in less than a month apart.
Buckle your seat belts, you may experience turbulence ahead.
The week before Emma left for the other side of the globe, one of her friends flew in for a visit.
Life was hectic. Plans and packing consumed our time and energy. The day I took Emma’s friend back to the airport, I hit unexpected turbulence.
I figured I might as well talk to the airline clerk while we were there and ask about luggage restrictions for overseas flight. I stepped up to the counter and when he looked up and asked “Can I help you?” I totally lost focus and began to hyperventilate. I didn’t know whether to look for a Kleenex or a paper bag.
“My child is leaving….for Saipan. I…am.” I started to hiccup and gasp at the same time. He frantically began checking his screen, typing as fast as he could on the keyboard. A confused look came over his face. Emma rolled her eyes in embarrassment, stepped back, and hoped the security camera would not be able to identify us as being together.
“Ma’am,” the kind man stated, still staring at the screen. “I am not showing we have any flights to Saipan this afternoon.”
I caught my breath and through blurred eyes stammered, ”She doesn’t leave for 10 days.”
I am sure that at that point he pulled up the calendar and put in a request for vacation days. He probably had visions of a half-crazed mother on the edge running across the tarmac for one last wave good-bye and holding a pan of still warm brownies yelling, “Wait! She forgot her snack!”
Crazy, yes, but I am sure I am not the only parent who has had to refrain themselves when their child goes past the check point at an airport, unpack their belongings into a dorm room or be taken to the recruiting office. As hard as it is to accept, your child leaving is NORMAL whether it feels like it or not! At some point in your life you left your parents to make your way in the world. It is time to allow your child the same opportunity.
Note to Self; It might be a good idea to remember to focus, breathe, and carry along a paper bag in case of hyperventilation. Graduation is less than 6 weeks away!
What are the fears you have for your child, up to the time they leave? What are the fears you have for yourself?
Are you feeling fearful or feeling displaced? Be honest with yourself. Write out how your life will change once your responsibility begins to change.
Ask a friend to pray with you over your list. Sometimes just talking it out helps.
Plan a fun graduation/going away party for your child. Invite friends and family and have the event be about celebrating this important milestone in your child’s life and in yours.
Do you have something special planned or a tradition for reaching milestones? I would love to hear about it, so please leave a comment!