When children are little, the days seem consumed by cooking, cleaning, playing, snuggling, managing, redirecting attention, and discipline. They are exhausting, and the parent wonders if they will ever end. But, the joy of watching that little person grow and mature, try new things, embrace new hobbies and passions, even test the waters and limits of what they are allowed to do…though it was hard to see in the midst of it, those were great times. I missed some of it because of deep depression. I contributed to some of the angst and pain because I was too harsh in his early years. But Father was so very faithful. He showed me the mistakes I was making and gave me the courage and the determination to do whatever it took to change, even face the pain of my own past. We’ve weathered some pretty hard storms, my boy and me. And we have come out the other side with a relationship that is priceless, and that I would not trade all the money in the world for.
When my son was 16, Father laid on my heart that I needed to start letting him go, needed to start letting him make some of his own important decisions, so he could learn to do so while still under our care and support. As hard as it was as a control-freak who was not yet in recovery, I began to slowly loosen my hold and let him go. To be a Hannah and let her Samuel go (there’s a story behind that reference that is for another time). He made some mistakes, but for the most part, he was incredibly mature. It is hard to not be mature having gone through all he had at such a young age. He has made so many wise decisions. And I have rejoiced as he learned the very hard lessons of being consistent to take his anti-seizure medication without reminders, especially as the day came this year for him to finally be able to drive, three years after his peers. We were overjoyed in his success.
Then came the inevitable. The term “empty nest” is such a trite thing to me. I mean, birds have such a short time, and they push their children out of the nest. I know that what is best for him is to encourage him to take those hard steps, to risk pursuing those big dreams, to strike out on his own adventure, and I am trying to do that consistently while also grieving the fact that those choices are taking him further and further away from me. I know that is a good thing. I know it is important, necessary even. But knowing those things to be true does not make my sadness at his absence any easier. I stayed home with him. I homeschooled him. I have spent the majority of every day of his almost 20 years with him. His absence now leaves a big hole. I am thankful that when Father led me to start giving him some independence when he was 16, He also led me to start pursuing my own interests outside of him. I am so glad He did. I don’t know how I would be now if I hadn’t started recovery, if my entire world still revolved solely around my boy. Thankfully, it doesn’t. I have grown, just as he has. I am embracing new challenges and experiences. I have grown and matured and healed in so many ways. I have discovered new hobbies and passions. I am growing. And this is just another part of that. It is GOOD! And it hurts.
So, I am allowing myself to grieve the changes. I am allowing myself to feel sad as my husband and I eat dinner without our son sitting there at the table with us. I am allowing myself to feel the loss as I am in the house alone working on the new things I am learning to do as he heads off to learn new things. And I am also being intentional about being grateful. Grateful for the time I’ve had with him. Grateful for the man he is becoming who is chasing hard after God’s heart. Grateful that he is still walking this earth, even with a disability because he has a medicine that works well. Grateful that he has been able to overcome SO MUCH and is finding healing at such a young age. Grateful that I get to watch this beautiful young man stretch and grow and become everything I’ve always known he could be. Grateful that I got chosen to be his mom, and I always will be. Grateful that we are both growing, even as we grow in different directions.
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