Letting Go When They Leave the Nest…Seriously, LET GO!

I jotted this blog idea down several weeks ago when I helped our son move to his new city after graduating early from college. So, why didn’t I sit down then and write this? Because I was afraid. Afraid that I was going to “talk the talk” without “walking the walk.”

We hear the terms, “overbearing” or “helicopter parent” a lot these days. And we are sure that they do not refer to us. And if you are like me, the minute they are freshmen in high school, you start making the short mental list of everything you need to be sure to teach them before they leave for college (e.g. how to scramble an egg, how to change a tire, how to grocery shop).

But when they graduate from high school, the summer is filled with meeting a new roommate, picking out Darlene&kids*180stuff for the dorm room, orientation, registering for classes – and as you hug them goodbye in that old dorm room, holding on just a little tighter than ever before, tears welling, you realize there was a multi-page LIST of things you forgot to tell them/teach them/warn them about. You spend a lifetime saying, “I’ve got this” when, suddenly, in the blink of an eye, it’s time to say, “You’ve got this.”
And then they are gone.

The house is quiet. You are alone with your spouse, or maybe you are alone with yourself and, in a moment, just about everything that you have defined yourself by as “someone’s Mom” is different.

It is amazing what “being busy” or living a chaotic life does to a person. The truth is, our initial empty nester experience STUNK! My husband and I had not been truly connected, appreciative and loving for a while as I poured every ounce of me into the kids’ lives and my “busy-ness.” So as the kids went off to college with great joy and anticipation for what their next phase would be like, I sat in a house, marriage on the brink, issues from my previous marriage unresolved and cried. I felt sorry for myself because no one needed me any longer (that is my pity party talking!).

In the course of working on our marriage, some common themes kept coming up: My fear (What if the kids drink & drive? What if they don’t meet new friends? Do they know when to visit with their academic advisor? What if I’m just no good at marriage?) and lack of willingness to try new things (let’s ride bikes together – no; let’s just jump in the car and road trip – no).

And then it hit me, amidst the counseling and LOTS of time with myself, on a weekend visit to see the kids since they were at the same university. We were sitting on a patio when I told them I wasn’t sure what would come next in my life, as the tears welled up. That is when my son, at a tender 20 years old, looked me square in the eyes and simply said, “Mom, this is supposed to be the best time in your life. We are out of the house and we are happy. You need to go do things you have not been able to do because you were raising us and be happy, too.” Whoa.

The drive back to Dallas that weekend, alone, was the most therapeutic silence I had experienced in a long time. My son’s words were resonating in every nook and cranny of my brain. The 20 year old was right. I needed an attitude adjustment.

So that Monday was not only a new day, but I had a new calling. To find my joy, to be happy and to say, “Yes!” a lot more.

Darlene and ScottAnd in the course of the distractions that working on my marriage provided for 4 months, my children lived life without me helicoptering. They somehow figured out how to grocery shop, put air in their tires and meet with their academic advisors. Life forced me to “let go”—not just as their Mom, but also to “let go” of so much more inside of me that was negative, unhappy, fearful. It made me a better wife, a better Mom, a better friend.

Life milestones, new circumstances, finding a deeper joy inside of us…that is all a part of the journey of letting go.

What are you still holding on to? What or who do you need to “let go?” Sit quietly with yourself and ask yourself these questions. Then, simply let go. You will be amazed at what happens next…

Note from the SHE files: Let it Go…you will be amazed to see what happens next!

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5 years ago

Beautiful, Darlene – you’re such an inspiration! I’m so happy for you!