A recent blog post that I read (and the events of my life today) have inspired me to write one of the more personal posts I have written. I’m not sure there will be much for anyone to learn from this, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to share part of my story.
You see, today I dropped my daughter off at college.
A couple of years ago I was doing the same thing with my son, my first born – I thought that was hard. But she is my baby and that means I officially (at least for nine months at a time) enter the world of the empty-nester.
When I became a mom and I thought about the day they would graduate and leave the house, those days were so far ahead I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. It was like hearing a date from a science fiction movie.
But the reality is that as soon as they were born, I started raising them to leave the house.
It’s actually a really good thing that they are excited about and capable of making this transition, but like every phase before, there is something lost and therefore something to be grieved.
I asked my daughter the other day (through some tears), “What did I forget to teach you? What do you still need to know before you leave?” She laughed, also through some tears, because it’s a silly question. I can’t possibly teach her or show her everything she’s going to need for the rest of her life. There are so many things she hasn’t even encountered yet.
So what have I given my children over the last 20 years?
I believe that my husband and I showed them unconditional love (not perfectly I know). I wanted them to know that above all else I valued them. Not because of anything that they would ever do or not do, regardless of any bad choices they might make; they hold a place of value in my heart and life that is unshakable. This also translates to the fact that everyone has value. I wanted them to treat everyone with respect and honor, accepting people for who they are, not for what they can or can’t do. I wanted them to look for ways to serve others, sometimes in the simplest ways of a kind word or a smile. I wanted them not to be afraid of those who thought differently, but instead realize that their lives would be richer for having known them.
I believe that we have taught them to ask questions and make decisions for themselves. I loved when they asked if they could do something on their own or when they asked the question “Is there another way we could do this? Let’s try it and see!” From early on I wanted to empower them by giving them choices: “Do you want to brush your teeth first or get your pajamas on first.” That also meant letting them sit in the consequences of some of those choices, knowing that even if wasn’t going to turn out the way they wanted, I was there with them through the whole thing.
I believe that we instilled a sense of adventure in them that made them excited to try new things. I was often experimenting with cooking new foods, we were always looking for a new park to explore, we went to places we had never been for vacation each year, we hiked trails that we hadn’t seen before and went off the path whenever we could. Now my son is planning a visit to (and maybe living in) Japan and my daughter can’t wait to student teach in New Zealand.
There are countless things that I showed them: tie their shoes, brush their teeth, get dressed, make friends, make meals, do laundry, drive, the list goes on. But those things they probably could have learned from anyone, and there are many more things on that list that they will learn from someone other than me.
But what I do believe is that we have given them a foundation on which they can build their own life.
I have established relationships with them based on mutual respect and trust in which we love and learn from each other. We have moved from the season of parent and child into the realm of friends.