The Empty Nest: Push, Pull, Pray and Path

So my husband and I have recently become “empty nesters” and it’s so okay.  

Actually, it’s really okay!    

I had read and heard so much from moms left completely undone by this experience of their children flying the coop for college and other pursuits, when the day finally came, I waited for the wave of sadness to crash over me.

Instead, my husband and I have enjoyed simple, no fuss dinners with excellent conversation.  The guest bathroom (née kids’ bathroom) is always clean, the laundry always lighter, and the dishwasher rarely full.  There’s less urgency to grocery shop, cook and best of all, attend all those obligatory school meetings and functions.   

So, no waves of crushing sadness, yet – only some mild ripples of guilt for not feeling bad.  Is this normal, I wonder?  Am I missing a parent chip?  

I reflect some and think, I know I love my kids unreservedly.  I know just like you I wouldn’t hesitate to throw myself in front of a bus if the exchange was my life for theirs.

I think what I’m feeling right now is simply, “mission accomplished.”  I am profoundly grateful that they are up and out of our house because that is what’s supposed to happen.  That is the point, after all, of this whole parent gig – to raise human beings and equip them with the tools they need to leave you.   It’s as it should be.  

But here’s what I am struggling with:  how to best “parent” that child on the cusp of adulthood - the one who is old enough to make her own decisions but could sure benefit from her old mom’s guidance, not because I am so filled with wisdom, but because I have some five decades of really dumb mistakes in which she might benefit – should she opt not to repeat them.  

I’ve been thinking so much lately about “push, pull, pray and path” when it comes to that motherly advice I know my sweet daughter, in particular, isn’t much interested in these days.  

For example, when she was in high school, I was always pretty good at knowing when I had to push her.  So when she smashed her ankle to smithereens sliding into second base, she had to be pushed to face her fears and the softball field again.

Other times, she’d retreat into a shell (read: her room and her phone) to avoid what was bothering her and I’d know when it was time to gently pull her from Internet isolation and back into reality.

But now she has a whole new reality based on her life at college, her friends, teammates, roommate and studies.  As she navigates her first semester, I find myself wanting constantly to either push or pull here or there depending on what she’s facing.  

But I stop myself now.  Or rather, God steps in and stops me, gently reminding me that with Him, “there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  (Ecc. 3) The time to push and pull is over.  Like a clean bathroom and fewer dirty dishes, that too, comes with our new empty nest.

But as much as ever, my prayers matter.  And they remain just as mighty no matter how old my “babies” get or how far their travels take them away from me.  

And so I pray for this girl of mine that God would push her in His direction and for her older brother that God would likewise pull him as He sees fit.

Finally, I think about the path.  Our kids are starting their own paths now, and while my husband and I will often step on with them and share special parts of their journey, even help carry their burdens, their direction is their own.  

Their paths could lead them far away from their dad and me and their childhood home.  Or not.  I will cross that bridge when it comes, enjoying the empty nest for now, grateful that it quickly fills at frequent college breaks and holidays.  

Most of all I take great comfort in knowing that our kids are never out of reach of my prayers or the unyielding love of a great God who makes a home in the hearts of all those who love Him and call on His name.

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