Three men live in my house now. Once there was just one man and two rowdy little boys, but one day I woke up and realized my little boys had turned into men. Gone were the chubby, cherub faces. Now they had stubble and 5 o’clock shadows. The high-pitched cartoon character voices vanished overnight, and the deep resonance of a bass remained. I have always been their number one girl, but now I have been replaced by the dreaded girlfriend! Where had the time gone?

In the blink of an eye, my two precious babies had grown up and no longer needed me. I had worked myself out of a job . . . but isn’t that the point of motherhood?

Now, I find myself on the brink. Peering over the edge headed toward the abyss: the ominous empty nest. Many young parents have expressed their desire to be in my shoes, declaring me lucky for being so close to the finish line. Yet I am an unwilling participant, dragging my heels to keep the race going.

I have become that creepy old lady who stares longingly at the weary mom of toddlers wishing I could trade places. “They’ll grow up before you know it! Enjoy every minute of it!” I tell them. Truer words have never been spoken. It seems like just yesterday that I was on the receiving end of the same advice from well-meaning older moms. Now, I am face to face with the dreaded empty nest. I have found myself spending so much time mourning the loss of time that I have been paralyzed in the present.

Recently, an old friend commented, “Wow! You’re almost an empty nester!” In that moment, it hit me—almost! I still had one chick in the nest, almost ready to fly, but not yet! My “baby” is still navigating his way through his senior year of high school before he is catapulted into the “real world”. In that moment of realization, I had a choice. My youngest’s senior year was already underway; was I going to dread every last milestone or embrace each one of them?

I made the conscious decision to celebrate each “last”. The last first day of school, I took his picture next to the huge oak tree which had grown up with him. He even humored me and held up his fingers signifying the grade he was in one last time. The last first football game, I gave him a football shaped cookie and a sappy note encouraging him to make his senior season his best. The last Homecoming I gave him a special treat, and to my son’s delight, I didn’t tag along for pictures. So many lasts. So much to celebrate, and the year is just getting started.

Armed with my new attitude and focus, I have found many other reluctant moms of seniors. We have bonded together and found solace and encouragement together. This unity has become key to not only surviving the senior year of high school, but allowing my son to thrive, to stretch out his wings and fly. I won’t lie—there are days when panic rises up in my heart and I feel like I might suffocate from the pain. In this moment, I reach out to my friends, who talk me down from the cliff, offering words of encouragement and strength. That is the beauty of these friendships: many of us have walked together through all of the seasons of raising our children, so it is only natural that we reach out to each other in this time of our lives as well.

For you young moms who are sleep deprived, cranky, and wondering if the sleepless nights and toddler tantrums will ever end, rest assured they end all too quickly. Seek out moms who are a little bit farther in the journey of motherhood with whom you can seek advice, vent, and celebrate your child’s accomplishments.

It really is true that one day your child will not need you like he or she once did. I hope in time you will be able to embrace this fact as I have and enjoy your children while they are little, not rushing them to grow up too fast. Cherish the memories in your heart. These will stay with you forever even in the comfort of the empty nest.

You may also like:

I Had a Taste of the Empty Nest, And It Is Bittersweet

Dear Teenagers, Be Patient While I Let Go

Ready Or Not, Empty Nest Years Are Here

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Dana Young

I have been an elementary teacher for 25 years and am currently teaching my favorite grade, 2nd. I am the mother of two amazing young men and have been married to my best friend for 25 years. I love watching college football and hanging out with my family.