At our family reunion this summer, we talked the grandmas into trying out the kayaks. Donning a life jacket, Grandma Bena climbed in, and we handed her a paddle. She dug the paddle into the water on both sides. What am I doing wrong? she said. I’m not going anywhere.
Paddle harder, we said.
She paddled harder.
She was growing frustrated, while all the rest of us started laughing. Her daughter was holding onto the back of the kayak. No matter how hard Bena paddled, she wasn’t going to get anywhere.
This is how parenting can be in the empty nest years.
Our mouths shout cheers. Good luck to you out in the big, wide world. We’ll miss you!
While we’ve tucked two fingers into the back of their hearts with guilt, and we’re not letting them get anywhere away from us.
Last weekend my daughter and her new husband of four months came home from college for a weekend. Before when she had come home to visit she had really come home. To her bedroom. To our traditions. To Friday night movies and Saturday morning waffles.
But this time we heard her say over the phone, Can Dylan and I come over for waffles?
We had to arrange a date, and I grieved the change.
After we had a delightful morning visit, they got ready to leave. As they neared the door, they carefully informed me they were going to be spending Thanksgiving with his parents on a trip to Oregon. Then I think they held their breath while they watched my facial expression.
The first holiday, and they wouldn’t even be in the same town with us. My baby not eating cranberry salad with us this Thanksgiving? It was hard to hear.
And I had only half a second to recover and react well.
I gave them my blessing and thanked them for letting us know their plans. Then we stood and talked for a long time, with honesty, about how much it hurts to be with one family and not the other.
I’m sorry I’m taking her away from you, Dylan said. I could see his pain of wanting the best of both worlds –a holiday with his family but also a happy wife (and mother-in-law).
I have decided that I will not be a guilt-trip mom.
I will not.
More than that, I want to celebrate Jayme and Dylan’s new life together and where that takes them. I don’t want them to be afraid to tell me what their adventures are because they’re worried I’ll feel sorry for myself and do a guilt-inducing sigh.
I’m just about to let my baby boy leave the nest, too. It’s his senior year, and this one will fly far, I’m afraid. It’s going to hurt.
But I want to release all of my child. Not just his body.
Heart set free, too.
We can help our kids pack bags and fill out college forms. We can plan their weddings and watch them drive off on honeymoons. But we’re not done there. Next comes the emotional letting go. Will we send them off with free hearts, to go wherever God leads –no guilt attached?
No matter what stage you’re in with your children –whether it’s dropping them off in church nursery for the first time or picking out wedding dresses –you can decide how you will let loose of them.
I choose grace and blessing.
Go. Be free and enjoy! this momma will say, and with God’s help my kids will know I really mean it.