The Empty Nest
I watch the young couple walk down the street of a charming southern city. They are so well matched. It’s obvious that they are enjoying each other as they stroll through this sunlit town they now call home. As they hold hands, he turns to her smiling at something she said. My heart almost skips a beat. A vague thought crosses my mind – he looks like a little boy I once knew. I give myself a slight inward shake and think – of course, he does! He’s our boy, our son, but all grown now. Not ours anymore, but we are still his parents; I’m still his mom. And I’m her mom now, too, only everything is sweetly different.
Another young woman turns her head. She stands in my kitchen sharing about her day. A new hairstyle and cut being the latest petal as she continues to bloom into the self-confident, poised, artistic woman before me. It seems just like yesterday that her pigtail curls caught the sunlight as she chased a soccer ball around the yard. Now, little girls with ribbon-tied hair and little boys with their playground-stained hands grasp paint brushes and balls of clay in her own classroom. She’s a woman with a multi-stamped passport, a heart for learning and a love of deep conversation. She is not the same as the playful little girl or day-dreaming teenager who once lived here, but we are still her parents; I’m still her mom. We still talk and text, but it’s all sweetly different.
You can always tell when he’s in the house, his smile as warm and wide as his broad-shouldered bear hugs. His laugh is quick and infectious. Then, on the turn of a dime, he can go deep, really deep. He loves to discuss and ponder the conundrums of life. It wasn’t that long ago, when I would find him with spy toys and science gadgets cluttered around him, or watch him dueling with friends, lightsabers glowing. Now, he’s ready to say ‘I do’ to the young woman that we’ve prayed for all his life. He’s a man, our son following his own path. I’m still his mom, and I’ll be her mom, too. The same, but different, sweetly different.
I walk down the hallway, three closed doors. Nowadays, the rooms are clean and straight with beds made, ready for guests. Some décor has been tweaked. Temper-paint art projects no longer hang on bulletin boards, paintball guns and ammo are no longer stashed under beds and, mercifully, Legos and Duplo blocks are no longer painfully splashed across the floor.
Times have changed. Everything reminds me that I’ve entered the “empty nest” years. Empty nest, it sounds so forlorn and vacant. What do I do now? The full nest years have been rich! Memories of quarrels, stubborn scowls, curfews crossed and chaotic schedules fade. Instead my thoughts rest on rocking chair moments of lullabies sung and nightmares soothed, laughter-filled tickle fights, kissing the boo-boos away, homemade pizza and movie nights, sitting side by side pouring over a table piled with homework, hosting sleepovers with friends, zipping up the prom dress; praying together before meals, trips, exams, baptisms, doctor visits, dates, bedtimes, and goodbyes.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” the preacher of Ecclesiastes writes (Ecclesiastes 3:1). My heart agrees. The season has changed. There are other things to do now, and in some ways, I feel busier than ever before. Although I grieved the emptiness for a while and unexpected bittersweet moments can still surprise me, I no longer look back with sadness, but I’m so grateful for all of the “Mommy” years.
“For You, O LORD, have made me glad by Your work; at the works of Your hands I sing for joy” (Ps. 92:4).
I praise him that we were never alone as parents, but he was there to lead and guide, calling each one to himself. As I trust him now with our grown children, our marriage, and our future, one thing has not changed. The nest may be empty, and the children turned to adults, but I’m still a mother. It’s just sweetly different.