Recently I was lamenting about missing my son, Joseph who just went off to college. I likened the feeling to that of a mother bird pushing her baby bird out of the nest, but I don't feel ready to give that last push…
"It just doesn't feel right. I don't like sitting down to dinner with that empty chair across the table from me. It's really hitting me. My son, Joseph left for college just last week end. I am very proud of him. He's worked so hard at his studies and community service. But, why does he have to grow up so fast?
It's so true that our kids are on loan to us. Parents help them to form their consciences and raise them in virtue; steering them to the straight and narrow path that leads to Heaven.
I've been talking with a lot of parents lately about missing their kids. One Mom told me that she thinks she needs some "serious counseling!" She doesn't like her son out of the house so much embarking on his career after high school. Another Mom told me the other day that she cried for a couple of weeks before her son left for college because he was the last one leaving the nest. She added that he just recently called home to ask her a laundry question."
There are also parents who can't wait for the "freedom" they feel they will have when their children leave home, thinking that they've raised them for many years and they now want to relax or travel. I personally don't understand that kind of thinking but I realize that not every parent can relate to the empty HOLE feeling I have when my children leave. To be honest, I'd have to say it is bittersweet, but truly for me it is mostly bitter! I am so happy for each of my children when they reach the age to continue their education or embark on their career, but because I am such a MOM, I also hate it so. It's part of life, the part that's difficult for me.
It's doubly hard for me this year because I also miss my daughter, Jessica who just went back to college a few days after Joseph entered. Jessica is also out of state. But I am so proud of her, too. She works very hard and excels at college. She also has a big heart and does a lot of community service volunteering.
A Mom recently got in touch with me who also experienced that big HOLE feeling that I described about kids being absent from the home. She said, "I'm finding unexpected holes in the fabric of our family life, right alongside the ones I've expected. Who knew it would hurt so much, feel so strange? I am holding fast to the hope that there are unexpected joys soon to come as well." I told her that "there will be unexpected blessings (I know because Joseph is my fourth child "leaving" the nest). But, for now, we have that big HOLE in our family's tapestry. It's tough to push our children forth but we do it with with God's blessings and continued prayers. Don't worry, they'll be back, " I said.
Then last night, my daughter Chaldea came over for dinner (she's 25 years old and a college graduate). She's embarking on a trip across the country today (Oh my, lots of Rosaries are in order here!) and came over to spend some time before leaving for two weeks (yikes!). We had dinner together and then I took out the big brown bag of apples I had bought earlier so that I could make apple crisp for dessert. So, Chaldea and I sat at the kitchen table conversing and peeling that big mound of apples (Mary-Catherine had lots of homework to do, otherwise she'd be right there helping with the apple peeling). What a treat to have uninterrupted time with my daughter as we peeled the apples and chatted. I put the rest of the ingredients together for three pans of apple crisp and Chaldea popped onto the Internet on a laptop in the kitchen to show me the places where she would be visiting.
I remember when Chaldea left the nest a few years ago and how hard that was ushering another "child" into adulthood. I am so very proud of her for all of her accomplishments, but mostly for her kind and loving heart! She is a treasure to be sure. I cherished our moments peeling apples together last night, something she may not realize or fully understand until she has her own children. But, I think she knows how happy I am to be with her and all of my children.
So, to respond to that Mom's wondering about "unexpected blessings and joys" after the children have left home, YES the blessings will come and are found in our everyday lives. We have to seek them when we can, grab onto them and CHERISH them!
I just enjoyed a dish of apple crisp while I wrote this reflection!
(I plan on a Rosary and Mass later on for a safe trip for my daughter!)
PS To all of the parents out there with very young children: You may think that this talk about college and kids out of the nest certainly does NOT pertain to your life. After all, there is your little darling in your arms or on your lap. Trust me, they grow quickly and I haven't found a way to slow down time. It's very doubtful that you will either. Enjoy your family life, hanging onto your dinners together and family time. Later on, in time, that little baby that you are holding in your arms now will be all grown up–bringing back his or her own children to see you!