When my eldest daughter turned 18 I carried around one of her baby photos for two years, every day gazing at it — where had those years gone? You would think I would have adjusted to the grief of a child leaving home and living their own life when daughter two reached adulthood… and when daughter three graduated from adolescence.
I didn’t. In fact, it got worse. With three children all leading their own lives it can seem as if that part of my life never existed. The memories are all that remains. Even as I watch my nearly-five-year-old grow, I see that one day he’ll be on his way too.
Here is a vulnerability that I haven’t always allowed myself to be in touch with. The empty nester’s grief is real. It’s not the kids’ fault. It is what it is. They need to lead their own life, and I want (and need) them to lead their own life.
But it can be tough. Nothing could’ve prepared me for this. If anything, I couldn’t wait for the day when they were all grown up. Just like the paradox of being frustrated and rushing small children to bed only to regret my lack of patience with them when they had fallen asleep.
It’s such a bizarre feeling being so thankful for an adult child’s independence yet feeling you’re no longer required. There are still many times when I am needed, but it’s not like it used to be, and the weird thing is I used to resent it at times being so needed, thankfully, mainly in the early years.
I know that God is teaching me something in all this.
It’s that the important times are the times I felt tempted to rush and overlook — that I actually didn’t always appreciate the moments as I should have. It’s also that I did make the most of many opportunities, but like all things, the end comes, and ultimately things change. I have to accept it.
But it’s good I’m aware of my sadness, so it needn’t morph into anger, as at times my sadness does.
Most of all, we need to make the most of our time with children.