My son has just gone off to university. He’s an able young man with a bright future, in spite of having lost his father prematurely and some of the usual knocks life throws. I love him and, by GOD’s grace, he loves me. Separation hasn’t been difficult, nor easy, it just is.
The Empty Nest
When the home is emptied of children, it’s called “the empty nest”. In last week’s For Mothers post I discussed the nesting instinct we mothers have and a bit about building the nest for our own comfort and for that of our family’s when partner/spouse and children come along.
Now, as I’m in the process of adjusting to my son leaving home, it seems timely to discuss this season of life.
The more we have enabled our children to grow independently from us, the easier this phase of life will be: when our children grow into adulthood and eventually leave home.
Independence is important but not at the expense of relationship. So how on earth can we find the healthy balance between loving but not doting, freeing but not abandoning our children to the big wide world?
For me the three keys have been honesty, a listening ear, and respect.
I’ve had to level with myself numerous times; I tend to be self centred and opinionated sometimes but especially as a parent and I try to curb that. The best thing I can say is that when I feel afraid, I know I must put fear aside and not make any choices based on fear but rather on love.
When we look into our world so many decisions are based on fear and they have — from my perspective at least — not produced good outcomes. So, I scrap fear in favour of love. When I love my son rather than fear for his welfare, I release him to make his choices and trust his common sense and basic desire (which as parents my husband and I worked hard to implant in him from a young age) to do the right thing will win out. There is an old proverb from the Bible which says, “train a child in the way he shall go and when he grows up he will not depart from it”. Both my husband and I poured a lot of teaching of right and wrong into our son from the time he was little. We’ve seen him apply it in his teens. Now it’s time to trust him to live as he’s been taught.
I can honestly say I’ve never lied to my son and that supplies fresh air into our relationship. I’ve sown enough time and energy into our relationship that I know he’s honest with me. He doesn’t share a lot, but he doesn’t lie to me. That keeps the bridge of communication open.
A listening ear
I’m not sure I’m the best at listening but I do try and I want so much to hear my son’s views and perspectives, anecdotes and experiences. I hope and believe he knows I always want to learn what he’s thinking or doing… without prying.
Respect: Putting myself in my child’s shoes
I cannot possibly count the number of times I’ve reflected back on my own childhood and (especially) my youth, when attempting to assess how much responsibility to give my son at home and how much liberty and freedom.
As a youth, I was temperamental, headstrong, aloof from my parents, and miserable. Fortunately for both of us, my son is much more cooperative than I was. But my own history has helped me to better understand when my son is agitated with me or when he wants his privacy.
I’ve often made mistakes but my desire has been for him to relate to me in a way that is meaningful…. to keep the relationship in tact rather than to allow it to break or to be purely superficial.
Time will tell how he gets on.
As for me, I’m exploring new places this month and spending extra time with friends so that I don’t pine:)
That’s the immediate term.
Going forward, I don’t know what this next chapter holds for me, but I’m open to what’s in store. And for him, I hope this adventure of life creating his own boundaries is exciting, engaging, safe and fun.