I think I may be on the verge of a butterfly summer...
My babies are almost grown. Some of them have flown long-distances and settled into ridiculously far off lands like Minnesota and Michigan and Alaska. This summer one of our offspring has dared to soar off to New Zealand! Even our two babies living at home will not be here much longer--they're beginning to stretch their wings and flap around, all warning us that they're approaching lift-off sooner rather than later. Yikes--maybe I should duct-tape them to their chairs around the dinner table?!
This past week I've been doing a lot of thinking about my current sadness. I keep wondering why I'm hitting walls of grief and loss, even while I'm having fun or feeling excited or enjoying some wonderful friends and pre-summer-time experiences.
Honestly, I'm still completely flummoxed by this whole almost-empty nest stage of life. Who am I when I'm not a part of my children's daily lives? Who am I when they're busy creating their own homes and my home is now a place they only visit?
These past few years, to some degree, I've been like a caterpillar tucked inside a chrysalis after I've tried to molt, desperately trying to shed some of my mama-skin and experience life as only me--not just someone's Mom. Ouch. The new, exposed layer of skin felt raw, alien, vulnerable.
Best just to fold into myself, forming a protective chrysalis while I ponder my future life, I thought. So I did. Some days I've sat curled up inside my chrysalis-walls and trembled with excitement just to think of all the fun days ahead when I might emerge and flit about as a beautiful butterfly. Maybe, on some of these trembling-with-excitement days I even peeked through my cocoon's cracks in the wall just to see which flowers I wanted to visit first when I emerged.
On other days I sat inside my self-made, protective envelope and trembled with confusion, certain that without my babies by my side, my family still at home, I'd be a pathetically-weak butterfly with wet wings, too confused to fly.
Lately, though, there's been a subtle shift inside my chrysalis... The trembling-with-excitement days are beginning to outnumber the trembling-with-confusion days. This once-a-mama-always-a-mama is unearthing her core self--the woman who existed long before she devoted herself to creating home for her babies.
Then tonight husband and I had a magical conversation with our young-adult son, the one who lives with us and is hinting that it may be time to find his own nest. Husband and I voiced our thoughts on one of the options he's considering, and Aaron listened. well. This very-smart, fun young man responded to our opinions with respect, honor, affection, and I think that we offered him the same in return. There were a few stressful moments between husband and son, but they worked it through and both came out with a clearer understanding. We were three adults having an honest discussion around the dinner table--I'm not going to speak for C & A (though I have before), but I loved the real dialogue.
As I followed our 23-yr-old into the kitchen where he began doing the dishes, I hesitantly offered him one last piece of advice: Aaron, this is a big decision you're making. You've said that sometimes you feel easily swayed by the opinions of those you love. You're trying to find your own way, your own voice, so maybe it would help to spend a Saturday hiking by yourself in the mountains. Spending time alone in nature (with God), asking yourself some honest questions about what you really want, tuning out cell phones and the voices of others, may just allow you to focus on your own voice (and God's voice).
Here comes the magical part of our conversation. Aaron looked me in the eye, nodded, and said, That's a great suggestion. A really good idea. Thank you.
And I realized that I hadn't given him my advice as a mom, even though I will always be his mom. I gave the advice as his friend, albeit his
slightly older and very mom-like friend--who may be able to offer a worthwhile suggestion every now and then. Adult to adult.