As we are moving through the seasons from spring to summer to fall, I am entering a new season in my life. My son – my youngest child – has graduated from high school and will be off to college. My husband and I are becoming empty nesters.
I am going through some pretty serious emotions dealing with this milestone. Of course, I want Nate to grow up – and I’m proud of who he’s become. But I confess – a part of me wants to hold on longer to his childhood, too.
Sometimes it feels as if Nate suddenly went from crib to college, but looking back I see his life has been a series of millimeter-like moments that we have been able to fully enjoy along the way.
Now I am in the process of learning to let go of a departing season while I try to embrace a new one. If you have adult children, you know exactly how I feel. Just as we may reluctantly pack away the skis and boots of winter and dig out beach towels and snorkeling masks, we must pack up pieces of our lives and replace them with … what?
In pondering that question, I am reminded of one of my favorite comics, the final Calvin and Hobbes strip drawn by master cartoonist Bill Watterson. In it, the two inseparable pals are traipsing across a field of smooth, white snow. “It’s a magical world, Hobbes ol’ buddy,” says Calvin. “Let’s go exploring.”
I am exploring, too. I have come to understand – as have many parents before me – that life is a progression of seasons, one rolling after the other as surely as spring follows winter. We experience our childhoods, our young adult years, our marriages, our professions, our parenthoods, later the grandparent years.
A few weeks ago my season was motherhood. This is my new season now – a healthy, energetic, professional woman with an empty nest and many productive years to come.
As Ecclesiastes says, and The Byrds put to song: To every thing there is a season. The empty nest is my season now. What is your season?
Whatever your answer, I urge you to enjoy the season you’re in exactly as it’s supposed to be – don’t wish it away! Savor every millimeter – as we did with Nate. Ski in your winter. Snorkel in your summer. Each season offers its joys, and the next season will come in its perfect time.
As for me, I am picking up some old threads I dropped to make room for family needs. I will commit to professional enrichment I didn’t have time for when the fun of cheering at water polo tournaments topped my agenda. In fact, I recently made a 17-day trip to help other dentists master the Invisalign software program. Invisalign is a very technical appliance, and I’ve learned I have a knack for explaining the process in a way that dentists can understand.
I am going to enroll in that yoga class I’ve been eyeing for a while. And say “yes” to my women friends the next time they invite me to join their morning bike ride.
I like to cook, and cooking is one way I’ve been able to express my love for my family. I will take cooking classes, master new recipes and techniques – without the pressure of providing full, balanced meals every night on schedule. And there are a few hobbies I’ve wanted to try – the list goes on.
Sure, I’ll miss the day-to-day routines – the millimeter minutes – with Nate. But those are behind me – and well done, as Nate himself reminded me recently.
For 18 years, every school day, I packed Nate’s lunch. As I said, I like to cook, and my son loved that I packed his lunches. He always knew he was going to get a powerhouse meal, because I do make good lunches.
Recently, I had occasion to offer to make lunch again for my new high school graduate. His answer was kind but firm. “No, Mom,” he said to me. “I’ve got it now. You’re done.”
I’m done making Nate’s lunches. Nate’s moved on to a new season in his life – and I’m beginning a new one in mine. Perhaps someday I’ll make a child’s lunches again. But that will be another season. For this one, I have some exploring to do. I plan to. How about you?