Last night I had dinner with my friend Becky. We sat in her newly remodeled kitchen...that she did ALL HERSELF by the way...painted the cabinets, recovered the dining room chairs, and even resurfaced the countertops HER OWN SELF. She's that brave and creative and amazing.
When we get together, it takes very little time for us to dive deep into what I call soul conversation...what we've been thinking about, struggling with, rejoicing over, and learning about ourselves and our faith and our relationships. Last night was no different. Two hours flew by in a nano second as we indulged in lo mein and egg rolls and coffee ice cream and rambled and ranted about all the things that have been making up our lives since last time we talked.
One topic we spend quite a bit of time on (and have been for the past couple years actually) is how we are navigating this season of empty nesting and parenting young adult children who are their very own adult selves and don't want to be parented anymore.
This is hard.
Harder than I thought it would be, and quite honestly I think so far I am sucking at it.
I used to think things would get easier as the kids got older, that the baby and toddler years were the most challenging and as they grew older and more independent, life would get easier. It's so cute how I used to think that. Nothing that I experienced through all the years of parenting, all the books I read and all the things I thought I knew...nothing prepared me for these years when they would leave the nest. Forge out on their own, no longer wanting or needing my hovering -er, I mean guidance.
At least when they were babies and they insisted on "me do!" I could still stand there and watch (ok, hover) to make sure they didn't harm themselves with their freedom and independence. But now, not so much. Now it's "me do!" and "back off...farther...no, farther...keep going, Mom. I can still see you and feel what you are thinking. You need to let me go."
I don’t want to hear that. That makes my heart hurt and I want to die in my body. I’d much prefer to hear something like “Mom, what do you think I should do” and “Let’s hang out together for four hours and eat cookie dough and make snow angels and cuddle.” Or even “Mom, I still need you.”
But then I realize, with the help of my friend and egg rolls and lo mein and coffee ice cream...that this is part of the journey. This is how it's supposed to be. We raise them to not need us.
And their lives are not about me.
Even though I birthed (some of) them out of my own body, and we had them because we wanted babies and love and family and all the sweet, precious things that come with that forever. And even though being a mother has been my life's focus and my highest calling for the past 23 years, I now need to swallow this very hard truth. My kids are not here on this planet to make me feel fulfilled. They are here to live their own lives, walk out their own journeys, and fulfill their own purposes in this world.
I have always known this to be true in my brain. It’s my heart that’s throwing a tantrum.
Becky gets this. We are walking parallel roads. She shared advise she heard recently on how to deal with this so very strong mom desire to fix and help and teach and guide and make them wear their life jackets or better yet, come back to the shore where it's safe when the waters get choppy. She said in those moments we have one thing to do. Only one. And that is to shut it.
They don’t want our advise. Our wisdom doesn’t apply to their lives. Not now anyway. When they are in their 40’s they’ll feel differently, but for now they want and need to follow their own callings, make their own decisions and even their own mistakes. It’s what I did, what we all did, but it's SOOOOOO hard when the maternal lifeguard takes over and we see the waves coming. We want to make them see what we see, and do what we wish we woulda shoulda done when we saw those same waves coming at us when we were their ages. When our moms tried to coax or warn us back to shore and we insisted on not.
And I am immensely grateful to have Mr. Wonderful by my side to help keep me sane (not a small job). He's so much farther along on this journey than I am, and he has unending grace and patience with me while I figure this all out.
I may not be there yet, but I'm on my way.