Saturday, September 12, 2015

empty nest - full heart

It's hard to tell someone exactly what it feels like when your kids start leaving home. We have been very fortunate that both boys chose a career path right out of high school that allowed them to stay home with us (part-time), instead of heading off to college or joining the military. I have friends that have had to say goodbye to their sons or daughters, and they are gone months before they come back home again. Others move miles away and they may only visit a few times a year.

Logan graduated from high school one week, and started his new job as deckhand a week later (at age 17). He was on a 2/2 schedule, working away for two weeks, then coming home the other two. We loved having both our boys home with us and over the next few years, the bond between them grew even stronger.

Over the next few years, Logan continued to commute to work, but seemed to be coming home less frequently and finally took the plunge and leased his first apartment in Delmar, MD (not too far away from home). I will never forget that Saturday morning, following him up the highway with his truck full of the few belongings he was taking with him to start this new, exciting life. Peter and I cried the whole way there, helped him get the apartment ready, then headed back home. This probably sounds dramatic, but it felt as though we were grieving. It was one of the worst feelings I've ever had.

The very next morning, Nathan asked if he could move into Logan's room, and I think we were all happy to do this, just so we didn't have to see that empty room.

It's funny how life works, because not too many days later, after getting phone calls from Logan telling us how awesome it was having his own place and how much there was to do, that our "grieving" turned into happiness and contentment. We learned very quickly that if your children are okay, then you can be okay too.

Not long after moving, Logan started dating Lindsey, and the rest is history. :O)

Fast forward to Nathan's junior year (the same year Logan moved out). We now had only one child in the house, but we adjusted to this. We knew though how quickly time flies, so we tried to soak up every minute (well, as much time as a teen will give you).
Before we knew it, it was time for Nathan to make some big decisions about what he planned to do after graduation. He decided to go the same route Logan had, a career in tugboating (and I secretly squealed inside). I knew this would not only be a good choice for him, but it would buy us some time with our last child leaving home.

Fast forward to Christmas 2013......

Nathan had started his new job a few months after graduation, and his schedule put him on the boat on Christmas Day!!!! OMG....I will never forget waking up that Christmas morning without either of our boys there. It was the first time in 25 years and it was one of our hardest days as parents.

Nathan started his second year on the job this past August. He commutes, as Logan did, home 2 weeks, on the boat 2 weeks. I'll be honest and say, that Peter and I have enjoyed the time alone, but we also love knowing that Nathan will come home during his time off.

We know the day is coming when Nathan will pack up his few belongings and start a new life somewhere else too. I can get emotional just typing this, but know in my heart that it is what's best and what is the normal course of life. Does it make it any easier? No. Will the house be empty and quiet? Yes. But, just as I saw how much Logan needed to go out on his own and make a new life for himself, I know Nathan will be ready to do the same.

While this is not an easy stage in life as parents, it is, at the same time, one of the most rewarding stages, knowing your children will go out into the world and make a good life for themselves, while remembering where they came from and the people they have behind them. :O)

I read the best post yesterday about dealing with an empty nest. It is from Imparting Grace blog and I encourage everyone to read this. Richella wrote beautifully about becoming empty-nesters:


source: Imparting Grace

"What looks like a mess is a nest. An empty nest. A tiny bird (a wren, I think) found the top of one of our front porch columns to be inviting and comforting. And so she chose it as a place to have her babies, to raise her family.

I like to use birds' nests in my decorating. And that little wren had no use for her nest any more--her little ones had long since flown away. So why couldn't I take that nest down and put it in an arrangement or under a cloche or something?

I couldn't do it. I just couldn't bring myself to disturb that empty nest.

Perhaps it's because, deep in my heart, I wanted those baby birds to come back and perch there for just a bit. I knew, of course, that they couldn't live in the old nest. It was built to be a safe space for them when they were tiny and helpless. The nest didn't fit them any more. I knew this.
And I was glad for those birds to be grown up and free and able to fly. I was happy for them. I felt proud of their little mama.
Still, I couldn't take down that nest.

Just like that mama bird, I tried very hard to build a cozy place for my little ones to grow. But, of course, there was no way for me to protect my children from all harm. Try as I might to keep them healthy and whole, I couldn't control their lives. I couldn't control the circumstances they had to face. I never did have any control.

I remind myself of this truth as I think about my children, praying for their safety and well-being, missing them.
I realize now why I couldn't bring myself to take down that nest. Every once in a while, I wanted those grown-up babies to fly home. And the nest would be there, waiting."

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