As I type this I am watching a pretty wild and rambunctious pillow fight taking place on my bed. The toddler and the six year old are going at it with gusto, as I protect the baby girl from their flailing arms. The computer is bouncing up and down, I just got a foot in my face and I am about to ban them from my bedroom…
….but I stop myself because this morning I have a fresh awareness that these moments are fleeting and will all too soon give way to the solitude that comes with grown up children and an “empty nest”. I decide to stop wishing for some peace and quiet and just take it all in. Perhaps I have an advantage that other moms with hyped up, super energetic young ones don’t have – after all how many mothers of wee ones just drove their eldest child to the airport to wave goodbye as she went off to her second year of college? How many have a baby wrapping her fingers tightly around their thumb while not wanting to let go of the hand of their adult child? How many mommy’s are living both ends of the spectrum at once? Yes, that is one of the advantages of having children over a span of two decades…perspective.
I know many of my friends are at the tail end of their parenting years. They have two or perhaps three children all close in age who one by one are headed out the door leaving an emptiness, strange quietness and hole in their hearts along with the question…”Where did the time go?” They long to go back in time to the days when their children were young and all under their roof.
I also have several friends with many little ones clinging to their knees who would love a moment of peace and quiet or would pay big money just to have time alone. They think that this season will never end where they often cannnot even get in a shower, rarely hold an adult conversation and are always exhausted from the never ending job of being a Mom.
What I want to say to those about to have a completely empty nest – embrace this new season of life. Be the best parent to your adult children that you can be. Spend time praying for them. Finish that scrapbook you started when they were babies (or that you thought about starting). Be encouraging & uplifting – supporting their decisions and giving wisdom and advice when you are asked (they likely won’t listen to you anyway if you give it before they ask). Use your new free time to make a positive difference in the world and impact those around you. Remember all those things you wished you could do when the kids were little? Do them! (hmmm or here is an option – you could always adopt a child and begin again!)
And to those stressed out, overworked, about to go crazy mommy’s of little ones, I want to say – Don’t wish it away. Enjoy this season. Relax. Let things go and don’t be so uptight. So what if your house is a mess, you have days where you never get dressed, your to do list never gets completely done, your children are not perfectly “coiffed” or you just can’t seem to keep it all together. It is ok. Make memories with your children. Love them and enjoy them at every stage –
- Snuggle that newborn in your neck, rock them to sleep, smell their amazing aroma, stare in wonder at their fingers & toes
- Watch your infant sleep peacefully – breathe in & out in their rythm, tickle their tummies and take in that unbridled laughter, spend hours looking into their pure eyes and trying to make them smile
- Play with your toddler, get on the floor and crawl around in the dirt with them, explore with them all the things that catch their attention
- Laugh at the temper tantrums, sing “Fits are the pits”, “I’m allergic to griping” or some other song when inappropriate behavior pops up (discipline can be fun too…for you anyway – I could actually put on make up or eat a cookie with my coffee during time outs!)
- Read with your children – even if it is the same book over & over. Teach them to read. Tell them stories. Lay in bed with them & let them come in bed with you
- Let them have pillow fights, horse play and jump on the bed . Squirt whip cream right into their mouths, be spontaneous and fun – it is ok….no it is great to let them run in the rain, get muddy, jump in puddles, climb trees, go swimming in the winter, skip school for a day, eat pie for breakfast. (my list goes on & on – as long as it is legal & moral)
- Blow bubbles with them, swing together, have tea parties, play games, turn up the music loud & sing together, dance with them , laugh with them and cry with them.
- Go to their games, school events, productions, activities and concerts. Cheer wildly. Take pictures.
- Let your teenagers sleep in, be respectfully opinionated and even occasionally roll their eyes (in fact have an eye rolling competition! I win every time!) Walk away and do not engage when they are “having one of those days”.
- Open your home and heart to their friends, take an interest in their passions and pursuits.
- Kiss them good morning, good bye & goodnight. Be generous with your affection and tell them you love them at every opportunity
Whatever season of parenting you are in – make the most of every moment, celebrate everything and enjoy the precious gifts of life you have been blessed with – your children.