It’s that time of year. Moms are marking things off of a long checklist. Dads are cramming vehicles full of suitcases and storage bags and ready-to-assemble furniture. College move-in is happening. (And if it’s happening in the South, there’s also lots of perspiring taking place!)
Some of you may be sending your oldest child off for the first time. And for others, the youngest may be moving out, leaving you at the beginning of your empty nest years. While I’m not a super-seasoned empty nester, I have been at it for a couple of years now. Here are five truths that I’ve learned so far.
1. You forget a lot of the hard stuff that happened during the at-home parenting years.
When you think back, it’s usually the good times that bubble to the surface. Recalling those toddler tantrums and childhood meltdowns isn’t as maddening as it once was. Even the escapades of the recent teen years start to fade as you move into this new season of long-distance parenting.
2. You adjust to the new normal…and even grow to like it.
College drop-off is just the beginning. Most likely, the rest of your life will be full of hellos and goodbyes with your children. I don’t know if that part gets any easier.
For me, the first couple of weeks with both of our girls gone were hard. The upstairs bedrooms were empty. I was only setting two places at the table for meals. And there were no more work or sports uniforms in my laundry pile
But as the weeks went by, there were new revelations. The only timetables my husband and I had to work around were our own. No one’s ball games or work schedules had to be considered. We didn’t have to consult anyone but ourselves about what restaurant we should eat at after church on Sundays.
Getting into our own routines is something we’ve enjoyed. We can go places and do things when we want to do them. This leads me to the next truth.
3. You get to decide what your empty nest looks like.
With the kids gone, you likely have extra time in your week. You can choose to travel more or start a new hobby. Maybe adult friendships haven’t been a priority while you’ve been raising teens. But now you can meet friends for dinner or have a group over to your house.
Your empty nest doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. But make some thoughtful decisions about how you want these days to look and you can enjoy this new stage of life.
4. You’ll always have shared memories with your kids.
From the trips you took to your family traditions, ball games you attended to the funny stories that are legendary in your family, nothing can change the memories you made with your children during their growing-up years. You’ll always have those things to remember and reminisce about with your kids.
And if you’re not at the empty nest yet, use these days to make those memories now. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Just spend time together learning something new or doing what they enjoy.
5. Getting to step into your adult child’s world is so much fun.
Once your children are gone, you get to go visit them! Whether in college or at their first home or apartment, you can observe the adult that they’re becoming. You can get acquainted with their environment and meet their friends. And, as will be my experience this weekend when I visit our older daughter, they may offer to make dinner for you!
It’s fun to see how our children are developing and growing in their independence once they’ve left our home. You’ll always be their parent, but you can also begin to become their friend.
Having our children leave the nest can be hard. But it’s so rewarding to see them stepping out on their own, becoming the young adults we hoped and prayed they would become all along.