I have one friend who is overtly in crisis over her empty nest. She cries. She mourns. She feels lost. She feels LOSS. Last summer when my two youngest sons were working out of state of summer camps, I worked hard to model how Excellent and Cool it can be to have an empty nest. What comes next is a Good Thing. Life is full of exciting possibilities and nothing more so than what lies ahead. This really is consistent with how I’ve tried to approach all the seasons of change with my kids. (My friend didn’t really appreciate my excellent modeling.)
The thing that has saved me thus far is that each new stage that my boys have grown into has been filled with new delights. I have told countless friends that I DON’T miss those baby years because the toddler years are so fun. I don’t miss the toddler years because I adore my little boys. I don’t miss the little boys because I delight in my adolescents. The teen years have been a trip and so much fun. The young adult years are turning into true joy.
I thought I was safe, you see. I thought that as long as I could keep finding cool things about the next age and stage, I wouldn’t ever have to mourn the passing of the last age and stage. No loss, always gain. Sounds like a winning plan to me!
What I didn’t count on was running out of stages.
There comes a time when the next stop isn’t on my road any more. Of course, for the rest of their lives, for the rest of MY life, there are new things. New stages, new seasons, new growth. But we’ve reached a point where the new growth isn’t happening on my watch anymore. I’m no longer safe from loss.
The truth is that last summer when my house was empty of boys, in spite of my brisk, cheery words about empty nests and enjoying couple time again with Mountain Man, I really MISSED my kids. I missed them being kids. I missed them as adults. When we traveled north to the family cabin for a week, I missed having a cabin full of laughter, energy, good ideas, napping, coffee-drinking, baking, conversation. I missed that.
In spite of my brave talk, I don’t think there’s any way around it. I’m going to have to go THROUGH this missing.