I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Posts tagged ‘empty nest’

Now What?

My month is up.

I gave myself the month of June to “wallow” a bit.  Empty nesting isn’t any more fun.  Not a bit.  But I am getting better at coming up with clever or useful ways to fill the time.

Now that my self-imposed deadline has arrived, what next?

For the better part of 26 years, my schedule and my choices have had to revolve around the fact that I was a mom.  Their schedules, their needs, their activities . . . they came first as they should have.  But that’s not the case any longer.

My leisure time is now mine.  Completely mine.  I got married at 20 and had my first child before I was 23 so it’s been a few years since I’ve owned my leisure time.

So I’ll make a list of creative ways to spend my times and plan some “purging” of various rooms and cupboards.  I’ll repaint the room that is now mine and get my stuff all settled in.

I used to say that one of the advantages of having my kids when I was young was the fact that I would still be young enough to REALLY enjoy the empty nest phase of life.  Well, that phase has started, so it’s time to go prove myself right.

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Mothering Adults

Before you ask the question, “Is this crazy lady EVER going to talk about anything but her empty nest experience?!”

Yes.  I promise.

But I’ve given myself the month of June to “actively process” this new normal.  I’m the type of person who processes by talking thing through.  The really personal stuff is landing in my journal.  Some of the “this is what I’ve learned” is landing here.

But I promise – pinky promise, even – to not let it be the only topic of conversation past the end of the month.  It may still come up from time to time . . . but it won’t be the dominant topic of conversation!

When my kids were itty bitty, my role was clear – keep them fed, dressed, clean. . . fairly easy even if it was slightly sleep-depriving.

The toddler and pre-school years brought the demand for a watchful eye with a curious, mobile child.  Educational play, outings to the park and potty training rounded out the experience of those years.

School years?  Bring on homework, dance classes, little league, sleepovers . . . their social circle grows and shifts as they grow.

With the teen years, the challenge of “how much freedom is enough” arises.  They want more say in running their own life and you want to keep them away from bad influences and lousy choices.

Then they become adults.  Suddenly, you are not an active participant in their lives anymore.  You move from the playing field to the sidelines.  You are now a spectator.

But there are things you can – should – do when parenting adults.

You can . . .

. . . agree to a web chat when a duckling living out of town asks.

. . . schedule or agree to a lunch date.

. . . send a random text to let them know you love them.

. . . plan a day trip to visit a married daughter and her hubby.

. . . spend a private moment with your daughter on her wedding day and let her know that you will always love her.

. . . always have sleeping space available when ducklings living out of town want to visit.

. . . re-affirm, as needed, that your daughter’s instincts are trustworthy when it comes to her newborn daughter.

I’m still learning where the line is.  What line you ask?  That line that stands between a healthy mother/adult child relationship and being a meddling mother.  The trick is, I’ve discovered that the line is in a different place for each of my ducklings.

But I know one thing for sure – since all four kids are grown and gone, I should probably consider ditching the mom van.  I don’t exactly need it anymore!

Time Brings Change

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. ~Ecc. 3:1

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~Lam 3:21-23

As a part of adjusting to my “new normal”, I’ve found these verses to be a powerful comfort and reminder.

And I’ve begun to focus on finding the positives and possibilities in this new phase . . .

  • more free time to pursue creative endeavors – write a new song, learn a new piano piece, cross-stitch, direct a show, be in a show, write . . . so many possibilities!
  • a smaller grocery bill (although it is a bit of a struggle learning to cook for only two!)
  • my own craft room!  Two empty bedrooms in the house and I get to take over one.  A space all my own!
  • being a grandmother.  Been at this new role for a month and I love it!
  • less guilt about taking time for me whether it’s reading a book or getting a manicure.

Priority number one is to find some gal pals to hang out with.  When you spend a couple decades as a mom to four AND you move to a new town with three of those kiddos in the midst of the busy teen years, finding friends to hang out with takes a backseat to being at concerts, musicals, plays, games, etc.  Now that my free time is ALL mine, I can give myself the freedom to get to know some other fabulous women and build some supportive friendships.

There is still some adjusting that needs to take place, but I’ve taken the first few steps.  I’m confident that I’ll find a way to make empty nesting fabulous!

What Now?

Parenting is all about changes and phases.

When our kids are helpless infants, the job is fairly simple – feed them when they are hungry, change diapers as needed and give lots of cuddles! As they grow we play with them – who doesn’t love to make a little one laugh?! – and teach them necessary survival skills: how to be kind to others, sometimes the answer has to be “no”, sometimes it’s fun to share, and so on.

With the school years, we find our schedules becoming filled with things like dance class, little league baseball, chaperoning class parties and field trips, and sleepovers.  If they get involved in performing arts activities or sports during their middle school years, the schedule can get down right hectic.

High school brings dances, more sports and performing arts opportunities, possibly a part-time job, dating . . . you get the idea!

Then comes adulthood.  That moment when you look around and the kids are no longer kids.  They don’t need you to teach them right from wrong any more.  They don’t need rides to and from little league practice.  They don’t need you to remind them about their homework because, if they are off at college, you don’t even really know what homework they have!

And the much celebrated AND dreaded empty nest.

Less than 24 hours ago, I became a grandmother for the first time.  I have no clue how to be a grandmother.  I have a strong suspicion that my approach to “grandmothering” will be rather . . . unique (weird?!).  I’m fairly confident I’ll figure it out.

Just minutes ago, my youngest moved out, starting off on his newest adventure.  He received his AA degree earlier in the evening and will be moving in with his sister and brother-in-law, finding a job, and getting ready to finish his Bachelor’s Degree at UNI (the third Laupp child to do so – Go Panthers!).  I’m officially at that stage of parenting known as “empty nest”.

I have no clue how to do this part.  And the random thoughts running through my brain aren’t helping to boost my confidence in this area:

“They don’t need me as much anymore.”

“Oh no . . . what if they don’t need me at all?”

“How often can I call/text/private message without coming across as needy or clingy?!”

“What exactly is my role in their lives now?!’

I know, I know.  This is what’s supposed to happen.  You don’t have to remind me.  And this isn’t the first child to leave the nest.  It’s worse than that.  He’s my last.

So there will be no more “kid’s” activities on my calendar.  No more “Mom, can you . . . ” and no more “Hey, do you think maybe . . . ?”  because they are all handling life on their own – or with a special somone – now.

Which leaves me stuck with the same question – what now?!

A New Stage

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” – Debra Ginsberg

Today was a life-changer.

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My baby walked across the stage and received his diploma.  My youngest child graduated high school.

*gulp*

This is the end of an era, as they say.  For 18 years I have watched a child walk in to a K-12 school building.  18 years of field trips, permission slips, Friday folders, spelling lists, fundraisers, parent/teacher conferences, concerts, plays, musicals, projects, snow days, . . . four children, a countless number of teachers, friends, highs, and lows.  I have been a band mom, a soccer mom, a choir mom, a theater mom, a basketball mom, . . . you get the idea!!

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These four have brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined.  They have made me laugh, tested my understanding and patience, proven that I am NEVER to old to learn and no one is ever too young to teach, and have filled my heart to bursting too many times to count.  I have NO clue what this new phase holds.  My eldest duckling (in the sunglasses next to her brother) has been living on her own for awhile and working a full-time, “grown up” job so I’ve already dipped my toe into the “empty nest” waters.  But I still had kids in school which felt comfortable.  Today all of that has changed.  I still work for the school district but that is just not the same as being a parent.

I’ve shed my tears through the “lasts” – last choir concert, last band concert, last large group contest, last musical . . . you get the idea – and I shed a few more today when he gleefully tossed his cap into the air.  I love my kids and am fascinated by the individuals they have become.  I cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of them but I would be lying if I said that I was not at least a little bit nervous about what it means for hubby and I as we tread these new waters.

Congrats, sonny boy.  I could not be more proud of the man you have become and I cannot wait to see what life holds for you!

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It’s the Little Things . . .

This summer has been a big one for me on a personal level.  I’m very aware that what feels monumentally huge to me is, in reality, not a major crisis by any means.  But it is a very clear sign that the next phase of life is upon me, like it or not.

My oldest landed herself a full-time job and took on the responsibility of renting a house with a roommate.  She moved out in the late Spring just as my two college students were coming home.  We went from four living in the house during the school to five over the summer.  The two ducklings in college will leave in just about a week to head back to campus.  Today, I was hit with a reality I hadn’t really thought of yet – we will be a family of 3 living in the house.  The Laupp family hasn’t been that small since 1993!

As if that wasn’t enough, my baby turned 18 this summer.  Yes, my youngest duckling is now a legal adult – a fact he takes great joy in reminding me of often!  He will be a Senior in High School this year.  That means that by this time next year, I will not be sending ANYONE to a K-12 educational institution.  *gulp*  Since 1996, the fall has meant that is was “back to school” time.  My son – my baby – was born in 1996.  When he graduates next Spring, life changes for us.  After 19 years of sending kids back to school, they will either all be working full time or heading to college.

At times like this, I cannot help but wax nostalgic; maybe even a little teary eyed.  As I think about the last 23 years when most of my energy and time was focused on being “Esther/Margaret/Janessa/Jay’s mom”, it’s strange to realize that the time is coming VERY SOON that I won’t be needed in that capacity as much.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done what I think is a decent job of developing my own interests so that I won’t be at a total loss when they are all gone “for good.”  But this “new normal” feels weird.

As I think back, I realize it’s the little things I’m going to miss.

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It’s knowing that we will watch Anastasia and Swan Princess on every road trip.  And there WILL be singing along.  Guaranteed.  Even in their late teens and early 20’s, this is the norm.

It’s the fact that they always requested food like pudding cups, animal crackers, fruit snack, and goldfish for their snacks on road trips.  And they had better be animal CRACKERS not animal cookies.  I only made that mistake once!

It’s knowing that my oldest and youngest daughters will pack nearly their ENTIRE wardrobe when going on a vacation because, as they say – “I don’t know what I’m going to want to wear!”

It’s the random quoting of movies at any given moment (consider yourselves warned!).

It’s the bursting into song – usually a musical theater number – inspired by the most random of statements.

It’s the annual trip to Cedar Point and always making sure we caught the ice show!

It’s the random imaginary worlds or completely off the wall stories they create all while laughing themselves silly.

It’s the random ponytail holders and bobby pins EVERYWHERE.  (I’m pretty sure they multiply when we aren’t looking!)

It’s the informative conversations with my son about video games I understand pretty well now but have never played.

It’s knowing that mac and cheese MUST be served with hot dogs because . . . well, that’s just what we do!

It’s the stain from swing chains that I can never get out of a certain child’s clothing because . . . well . . . she still goes to the park swinging on a REGULAR basis.

No parent gets all the way through the experience of raising kids without wishing that life provided a few do-overs and I will be the first to say that I was FAR from a perfect parent.  But I have been blessed to watch some creative, talented, imaginative, smart young people come out of my home and I could not be more humbled to know that I was chosen to be their mom.  To my ducklings,  “Love you Forever, Like you for Always”.  To the moon and back.

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