30 Seconds for Hope:
Empty nest? The thought can make you cringe. Or cry. You look at your baby and think, “No, don’t ever fly away!” Yet kids do grow up. That’s a given. So today–right now–is your opportunity to cultivate a different mindset that will pay big benefits at the time of empty nest. It becomes easier to let go later if you adjust your grasp now. Recognize that future problems will arise if you believe, “This child is mine.” Avoid grasping identity from motherhood. Instead, find security in a reality-centered identity. Then when the nest empties, you won’t be left feeling abandoned and hopeless. You can be left with new adult friends—those sweet babies who grew and flew.
Now the full story:
Like a rose poised to unfurl, my baby Grace nestled close to me, ready to grow. So precious, I thought. What a joy and privilege to have her. I gazed at rosy lips and pink cheeks. Grow little Gracie, I prayed. You’re so tiny!
Staring at this bundle of newness, I was filled with intense mothering instincts. Protection. Possession. Ownership. Do you feel that? I was ready to fight to make sure my baby survived and thrived. It’s a mother thing, don’t you agree? Nothing’s going to harm my baby. Over my dead body!
Yet somehow another thought intruded.
She’s mine…but she’s not mine. I own her now…but not really. My little Grace will mature into being her own person…because she actually IS another person. She is not me, and I don’t truly own her…I’m just her protector and guide.
Can you believe I pondered those thoughts while gazing at a newborn? Ha, you say! But actually it’s true. On that day I gave little Grace into the hands of her loving heavenly Father, and I relinquished ownership. I decided to prepare for my empty nest at the beginning of her life. I would gladly take the responsibility of being her helper, but I needed to refuse the thinking that I was her owner.
Other thoughts flowed from that reality.
My job is to nourish and love Grace into adulthood. I’m a steward of her life, a stewardship given to me by her creator. But I don’t own Grace.
Maybe it helped that I’d already seen bad results from moms who were possessive of their kids. From moms who held expectations tightly and cried tantrum tears if college kids couldn’t come home for the weekend. From moms who were not okay if a twenty-something daughter wanted to wear olive green when the mom had chosen red. From moms who argued and contradicted opinions that disagreed with her own. Or pressed hard for conformity to the family’s religion.
And how did those young adults respond? They kept their distance. They hid information. They withheld the very thing that the moms wanted. Closeness.
I did not want those results. Do you? I knew the place to start was with my own attitudes.
Possessiveness had caused these moms to cling to their kids at the time of empty nest. During all the years of motherhood they had believed, “This child is mine.” When the mom’s identity was completely wrapped in the child, the embarrassment she felt when a daughter showed up in green made sense. If a daughter and mother were one and the same (in her head), then of course she would be embarrassed. And clingy. And insanely possessive.
But I didn’t want that.
So I reflected on other realities…
Who owns my child? God does. Not me. He has granted her the freedom to grow into her own opinions and choices, apart from me. I can let her become who God has created her to be.
Then where can my deepest identity come from? From motherhood? No, but rather from being loved and accepted by God through Jesus Christ. I found a whole lot written about that! (Sample it here). I soaked it up, and it made a big difference. Really.
I knew the dynamics of my motherhood would change over the years as kids matured (a given), so the time to get used to it was now. By anchoring my identity in God’s love for me rather than in my love for my children, I could become secure enough to let my children grow and go.
I can get ready now for kids to grow up and then leave me. Don’t take it personally, but rather remember that leaving is the plan.
So that’s the attitude I sought to grasp at Gracie’s birth, and it actually did help. Twenty years later Grace came home on a college break and told me, “I really appreciate your attitude while I’m away at college. I’ve seen what some of the other kids have to go through while their mothers have a meltdown back home, and I’m so grateful that you aren’t clingy! Thanks!”
I knew why I wasn’t clingy. Grace wasn’t mine, and she never had been.
Do you want to be known as the clingy mom? Although no one can guarantee you a lifetime of friendship with your child (not even God can guarantee that!), yet by refusing to cling to ownership you can cultivate fertile ground for friendship to grow. Losing your possessiveness gives the best chance for saving the friendship.
It’s never too late.
It’s never too late to let go.
TerriC via pixabay.com