It’s been several years now since my kids left home for college or work, but seeing so many recent Facebook posts of back to school pictures and comments made me think back to my early years of being an empty nester.
One of the hardest things for me in those first years was accepting and actually appreciating the role that other people would naturally play in my adult children’s lives. I’m embarrassed to admit that in some ways I felt threatened by the new relationships they were building. Funny enough, while Nick and Kati lived at home, I encouraged their relationships with other adults and especially with mentors from our church.
I understood that they needed other influences in their lives and that they needed safe people to confide in and learn from who were not mom and dad. I welcomed and felt very grateful for any input and attention they received. I accepted that Tom and I could never give them everything they needed, that they would flourish best and live most victoriously by gathering around them many advisers as God directs us in Proverbs.
But a switch flipped inside me after they left home.
I felt a myriad of emotions.
All of a sudden I found it hard to trust.
I didn’t always agree with the decisions they made based on input they received from friends and new mentors and couldn’t always figure out how to navigate those situations wisely.
I was fearful of them getting “bad” advice and making “bad” decisions.
I was jealous of the relationships they were building that didn’t include me.
It occurred to me that other people might usurp the role as the primary influencer in their lives and that left me feeling insecure and unsure of my role.
So many things were changing, and I was flailing, trying to accept all the changes going on and yet hold on to what I felt comfortable with as “the parent.”
While I knew what I was thinking needed to change, I was also stumped by my reactions. I had no idea what was lurking in my heart. That transition exposed my controlling nature and even a fair amount of pride. As I dug a bit deeper, however, what I discovered most was a lack of faith and trust in God’s hand in my children’s lives.
God was taking me to new levels of surrender, and I was super uncomfortable.
On top of it all, I was embarrassed to admit what was really going on inside.
I knew we were raising our kids to leave, be independent, and live lives that would be separate from Tom and I. I understood it intellectually, but my heart took a while to catch up with the realities that presented themselves after they left home. I had often prayed about getting them ready, and God graciously answered that prayer.
I guess I should have prayed more about getting myself ready!
How many times over the years had I helped other women as they went through similar transitions? Yet here I was, stuck in a mess of emotions and resisting the same advice I had sagely meted out to others.
There was another area I needed to grow in that God was gracious enough to help me see.