I am feeling some reluctance and melancholy lately, knowing that with only a few more weeks of August, summertime will be gone. Can you feel it too? While the sun, heat and humidity continues, signs of this approaching transition is all around us.
Being at the beach is not as carefree anymore, as thoughts, concerns and worries about leaving summer, and moving into a long To Do List for Fall, rummages around in my head. Summer may not be gone yet, but Autumn is itching to make her entrance and I am feeling it as “the odd uneven time” that author Sylvia Plath describes.
This month I am connecting this uneven time of moving from summer to fall with the transition of children growing up and preparing to spread their wings to fly off into the world of college and beyond. Perhaps you are packing up your first born and getting him ready for Freshman Orientation. Maybe your new college graduate has landed her first job and you are helping her move into her own apartment.
This stage of parenting is what has come to be known as the time of becoming an Empty Nester. It is a passage of time which confronts us all with a different and unfamiliar look in the mirror. We’re no longer a new parent, but a seasoned one, with years of experience under our belts, except perhaps for this view of our child as a young adult. We may feel that this letting go is even harder than that first step or first day of kindergarten. This truly is an uneven time because our relationship with our children is changing. We may want to hang on, but how can we possibly let go?
Maybe there is a different way to think about this relationship with your now “adult child”? I believe the answer lies in the experience of how we shift from season to season, year after year. Summer into Fall holds some clues to weathering the move
Right now it is harvest time. Our summer fruits and vegetables are abundantly ripe and rich with color and taste. Who our children have come to be and how they will continue to flourish and grow is the harvest of parenting. It is an opportunity to see our adult child differently, forming an expanded bond and connection to this fledgling grown up.
Think of these steps as your path from one season to another. The road may feel a bit bumpy and uneven, but it holds the promise of new and different interaction for both parent and adult child.
1. Let go and trust that your adult child will find his or her own way. You’re still there to listen and offer support and encouragement, but in a changed way. Trust that what you have taught your child will be their foundation and moral compass in the world of adulthood.
2. Engage and embrace your child as a grown up, not an 8 year old. This is an opportunity to nurture connecting to each other’s interests, sharing conversations and experiences together. Let your adult child see you as your own person, not only as Mom.
3. Discover your own new directions and relationships. Reinvigorate and reconnect with things that you used to enjoy. Just as you have given your child wings to fly, give yourself a pair of wings too!
Seasons come and go, year in and year out. The time of crossing over can be filled with reluctance, and the sorrow of letting go, saying goodby to what was. Yes, it is an “odd and uneven time”. Be patient with yourself on this journey.
Enjoy these last days of summer and know that they will be back again. Autumn will come with leaves turning and dazzling us with brilliant colors and crisp fall days. We can embrace this new season and feel the possibilities and promise it holds.
It is the same with coming to a new stage of being a parent. This place will be different, but it also has the potential to be wonderful. What joys lie ahead in achievements, special times and milestones shared together.
It has been quite a number of years since my sons first went off to college and then to their first job. There have been times along the way that I have been fortunate and blessed to soak up just as much love and excitement in their growing as I did with their first steps. I have enjoyed witnessing their evolving adulthood.
If you are currently in the midst of feeling that need to hang on and are afraid of letting go, know that you can regain your footing and move on from uneven ground to something new, solid and meaningful. It takes time and patience to take this step from one season to the next. I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences in this odd and uneven time of transition.