This week I took my first tentative steps into a new season of life as my oldest daughter pulled out of the driveway and headed to an apartment a thousand miles away. Watching her wave goodbye, smiling ear to ear, triggered a flashback to her toddler years. All the other children would cry when their moms dropped them off at the nursery before church, but not my girl. She’d let go of my hand and sprint into the classroom, never looking back, then she’d cry when I came back to pick her up. From that time forward, I knew that she was a free spirit, and I knew that she’d leave the nest at the first possible opportunity. You’d think that with 16 years of preparation, I’d have been ready for this, but it has been an emotionally disconcerting experience.
Why is it so hard to let go?
Being a mom has been my life’s most treasured privilege and its most visceral struggle. When you love your child so much, when she’s been an integral part of your journey for nearly two decades — watching over her, guiding her, teaching her, helping, and taking care of her — it is difficult to pull the plug and feel no sadness when she leaves. If I’m being completely transparent, I have to admit that I also worry and stew over the “what ifs,” and those imaginings create fear, anxiety, and unrest. God blessed me with a child, and I want to hang on and continue to care for and protect her. I also know that I’ll miss seeing her lovely smile, hearing her infectious laugh, and getting treated to her warm hugs.
The fact is, for almost 19 years, I wasn’t just pouring myself into her life; she was pouring herself into mine.
As I’ve struggled to find my footing in this new normal, I’ve been talking to veteran empty-nesters, looking for insight and wisdom, and I’ve been praying and seeking the peace and comfort that only my Heavenly Father can provide.
This is what I’ve learned…
- Moments of sadness are ok. That strong emotional response is testimony to the fact that you enjoy the company of your child, and you’ll miss having that as a regular part of day-to-day life.
- Celebrate! Don’t get stuck on the sad part. Take pride in the fact that even without a “How To” manual, you have successfully raised a child to adulthood. That was no easy task! Feel free to celebrate your accomplishment.
- Rejoice! Be as happy and excited about her new adventure as she is. She doesn’t need you to start doubting her; she needs you to cheer her on and express your confidence in her. This is a significant milestone in her life and an essential step towards her independence.
- Maintain Healthy Communication. Be there for her, but let her make her way and her own decisions. Think back on your journey. You did some things well, you made some good decisions, but you also messed up royally. Her story will be no different. Be there when she falls and needs someone to help her back up. When she gets down on herself, be the one that encourages her. When she gets hurt, she’s still going to need your comfort. Keep those lines of communication open and healthy. Be thankful you live at a time when you can call and text and even have video calls from almost anywhere at any time.
- Pray and Trust. Proverbs 22:6 (NLT) Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
- Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
We let them go, but we never really let go.
As parents, we have a connection to our children that will never end, and it can get better and more profound as they move into adulthood. Watching them leave the nest certainly comes with a measure of sadness, but it is at the same time an exciting new season of life. It’s a time to celebrate your hard work and dedication to raising that child and teaching her the truths in God’s Word. It’s also a time to celebrate her maturity and desire to take a major step towards personal responsibility and independence. This is an exciting time! And when worry starts to creep in, it’s important to remember that for as much as you love and care about her, it cannot compare to how much God loves and cares about her. We have reason to hope because He is faithful, and His promises are true. Our peace and comfort are found in trusting Him to complete the work that He has begun in our children’s lives.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you [and within your children!], will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.Philippians 1:6 NLT
- Are you struggling to let go of an adult child? Do you find yourself fearful and worried about them?
- Are you feeling the sadness of not having them at home? Write down your fears, feelings, and concerns and take them to God in prayer.
- What can you do to make this change in life less stressful and upsetting? How can you change your mindset to have more peace?