The Nest is Empty

We reached another milestone as parents this week.  WE MADE IT THROUGH THE TEENS!   The day before our youngest’s 20th birthday, I sent her a celebratory text “It’s your last day as a teenager!”  and she responded, “And your last day of being a mom of a teen!!”  Wait!  THAT news wasn’t quite as exciting.  I LOVED being a mom of teenagers.  I love teenagers, after a cumulative 25 years of youth ministry and parenting, basically I went from being a teenager to co-pastoring them to having teenage daughters and now, it’s over.  I’m not sure how I actually feel about that.

Leaving youth ministry, the way that we were blessed to leave it, didn’t feel so bad.  We stayed at the same church and just switched our position on staff, so I still got to see all my kids, and we are good friends with the new youth pastor and his wife, and our oldest was entering youth group as we were leaving, so I was still a little involved.

But this whole mothering thing, and new phases.  It’s hard.  And it can be sad.  But really in the end, if you’ve done your job as a parent correctly, you should have pretty much worked yourself out of a job by the time your kids hit, 20.  Of course there are still things that we help with, and as an (almost) 45 year-old, I would never in a million years say that I don’t need my parents anymore, but that “need” changes.  And as mothers we need to allow our kids that freedom.

So apparently, because I don’t really have a filter, with me, neither do my girls.  Don’t get me wrong, they are super sweet.  But in our house, we are REAL.  So in the past couple of years, if I get a little too much in their space they let me know.  Sometimes kindly, some times not.  If they hurt my feelings.  I actually don’t say anything to them on the spot.  Why?  Because there is probably truth in what they are saying, and I need to take a step back and figure it out.  I need to weigh their opinions against my feelings, and their ages.  Is it appropriate for me to give my opinion?  Was it asked for?  At what point do I step in if I feel like they are not making the right choice?  

These 2 phrases have been said to me in the past couple of years, “Mom, you raised us to be strong, independent women, and we are.” And “ I don’t want to be mean, but it’s really not yours to be a part of.” ( In neither of these situations were we fighting or arguing, just having a conversation about life.) Hmmmm…. Some people may argue with me and say that these words are disrespectful, but neither of them were said with a disrespectful tone.  My mom always says, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”  (because I can be a little sassy.)  In all honestly, I was a little hurt.  But after taking a step back, you know what?  Both statements are true.

If I am anything, I’m a great mom.  It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.  And I’m good at it.  I did raise both of my girls to be independent, and there are somethings in their lives that are really none of my business, unless they want to share them with me.  I can ask, but they don’t have to answer.  And I need to be okay with that.

Honestly, I didn’t love having babies.  I mean they were WAY cute, but babies really aren’t my thing.  The walking and talking stage was fun, until the second one came and was naughty for like 2 years straight!  Since we hit 3 and 5 though it’s been an absolute blast, from birthday parties, thank you Faith and Katie, to school projects, (ours were the best!) to youth camp, where their ACTUAL mom, was Camp Mom, to family trips, and dinners where the oldest would always share her stories from the day, to redecorating rooms, to moving into dorms, and decorating the condo… I have loved every minute of it.  And in a lot of ways, I’ve worked myself out of a job.  The thought actually brings tears to my eyes.  I miss it!  The day in and day out of being together as a family.  But I’m so grateful that I have something to miss.  But we aren’t meant to stay in that place.  They are beautiful women who have amazing dreams to pursue.  God placed dreams in their hearts.  I have helped to foster those dreams and helped them look at their options to make those dreams come true.  I have gone from helping, hands on, to standing back and watching them do it.  Mostly, with God’s help, independently.  And guess what, they are adulting!  They are doing it!  

Do they still need me?  Yes, and they both know it 🙂 !  It’s a different kind of need, it’s a bit of encouragement, a listening ear, and sometimes not even giving a response, but helping them process through the thoughts with more questions, but not really even giving advice.  More importantly to me, they want me as part of their life.  

Empty nesting is hard, particularly when your nest is 4,375 miles away from the birdies… But we raised strong, God-dependent girls.  And they are going to be world changers.  I’m ready for the 20’s!

PS:  This post has been approved by both of my girls.  🙂