Gifts for Dad ➔

Another school year is ending which means an entire slew of parents will soon sprint, tip toe, or be yanked unwillingly into the empty nest club as a proverbial rite of passage.

Over the years I’ve talked to moms and dads whose feelings about the organic transformation run up and down the emotional gamut. The spectrum is anywhere from freedom fighters who started the countdown decades in advance, all the way to panic-ridden souls digging in their heels attempting to defy the cosmic laws of inevitability.

Where did I once stand within this muddy mire of mixed emotions? Glad you asked. I guess you didn’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Seems two years ago I was somewhere between digging in my heels attempting to defy the cosmic law of inevitability and digging in my heels attempting to defy the cosmic law of inevitability.

Does this mean I mentally refused to accept the looming transition? Yes or yes? Don’t answer.

So, where do your emotions fall, fellow keeper of a soon-to-be vacant bed of twigs and grasses? Perhaps you still dance in denial or are a spiritual warrior having girded your loins with trustful surrender.

Some of you, when the adolescent years fried every last nerve, made a proactive move to book a two-week cruise set to sail the day after unpacking Junior’s last box in the dorm. Round of applause to you for planning the getaway while your feelings of sorrow over saying goodbye had yet to conceive in your tepid heart.

As for me, the initial filial upheaval caused emotional vertigo. My kids walked away, yet I remained standing still. In an instant I realized this truth: after eighteen years of loving on our kids like there’s no tomorrow, tomorrow comes.

Like real fast.

Hands-on, face-to-face, completely enmeshed, we can see what’s going on, orbital parenting comes to a screeching halt. A new, intrinsic approach ushers in. A complete surrender and trust in God mandate, all sugared up in a little phrase called letting go.

Barf.

Letting go has no semblance of sweetness, even for a diabetic. Loving from a distance creates a profound void. Days once filled with loud music, laughter, drama, friends, sports, activities, homework projects, and chaotic meals give way to empty timelessness where only memories linger.

But, alas, Websters.

The dictionary gifts us with psychological word play to help us cry-laugh our way beyond the prism of conventional parenting into the emerging season of solitude. Turns out the emotional yin yang of empty nest is quite an oxymoron because so many contradictions describe a mother’s feelings.

We can start with the throwback, overused statement which defines sending our kids off into the world as bittersweet because blah blah and yada yada. But I came across several other oxymorons which have a bit more depth and mothering emotion strapped to their paradoxical back.

Since I swept out the last feather two years ago, your initial conclusion might label me as an amateur expert at this gig. More likely I’m an advanced beginner. Yes, I’ve already experienced how organized chaos morphs into loud stillness, but my emotional state can still move like a calm storm where I am certainly unsure if I’m cheerfully mournful or a mournful optimist. How about a cheerful pessimist?

But, getting back to you…

Some days you will experience sad joy which leads to a great depression when you remember the goodbye reception that preceded the noticeable absence of your children.

Waking up to a deafening silence could really be a loud whisper beckoning you to accept this transition as a constant variable which you are certainly unsure about.

Since there are no instruction manuals for moms entering this stage of life, you may be practicing an arrogant humility if you try to pretend you’re not a train wreck. Fair warning.

How to handle such a season of life is clear as mud which will wake you up in a cold sweat shivering in confident fear about your child’s future. Letting our kids go is not an easy task, in fact, I’m going to make an educated guess and say it’s actually quite difficult for most of us.

Do your best to practice convenient denial so as not to produce harmonious discord in your family as you prepare to give your beautiful child wings to fly. Hold on to the promise that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. But don’t feel bad if your knees still buckle.

That’s the beautifully painful aspect of being a mom.

In Strength and Denial, crazy Mommas –

Shelby Spear

A self-described sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, and love enthusiast, Shelby is a mom of 3 Millennials writing about motherhood and life from her empty nest. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don't need to say, "I'm fine.") , and you can find her stories in print at Guideposts, around the web at sites like Her View From Home, For Every Mom, Parenting Teens & Tweens and on her blog shelbyspear.com.

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