We were standing outside Isaac's new apartment saying goodbye when I saw it. A tear. Welling up in his eyes. Then I realized they were streaming down his sister Grace's face, and puddling in Lydia's eyelashes. The dam broke and I declared I couldn't leave knowing he still needed trash bags. This all took place yesterday after we drove our youngest son to his new apartment near the campus of Virginia Tech. Recently accepted as a transfer student into the Engineering program, he is ready to make his mark in and on the world. But I'm not. I never really am ready. Even though I've done it 5 other times. It just doesn't get any easier.
Launching your kids into their future is disconcerting. Mostly on an emotional level. We all want our children to thrive and do well but they have free will and can make choices we know will be difficult to overcome. But launching them can also be a time of blessing. We are all well aware that life comes in seasons. Childhood, young adulthood, and for most of us, marriage and parenthood, and then those days when our children have left our homes to create and build their own. In reflecting on my emotions yesterday, I realized I have adopted some new practices into my life that are helping me to navigate the changes that come from my children growing up and leaving home. These new habits and areas of my life don't stop the tears, but they help me stay focused. For that, I am grateful.
Here they are...in no particular order:
1. This website and blog. I started BristolParenting.com last year, in November, after about 6 months of research into figuring out what I know well and then planning to write a book or blog or prepare articles on that topic. Everyone has areas of expertise. You do. Figure it out. What do you know well? After asking around and thinking deep and hard, I realized my expertise is truly in the realm of raising children. Sure, I can learn how to hang a door or be a coupon queen and spend only $25 for $400 of groceries, but my innate knowledge is deep in the area of raising children. So I bit the bullet and committed to this website and started writing articles for new, and not-so-new, parents. I feel I'm very old school when I talk with my younger mom friends. Many new child friendly products are available, whether you are looking for a program to help you put your baby to sleep, need help with potty training or are struggling with a whiny, teething baby, and I realize the knowledge of younger moms is clearly more up-to-date in those areas. So I often share their insights along with mine. Fortunately, I realized early on that my real gift is in communicating with my children, especially as they begin to really think and observe. Many parents struggle when their children see, and comment on, inconsistencies in their lives and when their children begin to challenge and counter family rules. "Because I said so!" only goes so far. So this blog is designed to share my journey and help you become a pro at communicating with your children as they mature. All the way driving home yesterday, I thought about what I wanted to share with everyone about launching our children. I was amazed how much it helped me focus on the positives instead of bawling my eyes out while driving. So think about what you know well, and plan how you can share with others.
2. iPhones. Despite my husband's frustration with Apple's proprietary cords and apps, I love that I can iMessage my kids from anywhere, just like a text message and when we have WiFi we can FaceTIme without incurring international data charges. So I am grateful for ways to contact my away-from-home kids on a regular and cost-effective basis. While I try to contact them during appropriate hours, sometimes my mom sense kicks in and I text, or call, in the middle of the night. I offer no apologies. If you are my child, I will contact you when I want. Once they marry, I do try to be more considerate. :)
3. Extended family...aging parents and grandsons. Granted, not everyone will have their own parents move in...or have grandchildren while their own youngest children are still at home, but it has been a huge blessing to have some extended family nearby. My own parents moved into our home two weeks ago, after they sold their house. We are building an apartment for them onto our home but it is not finished yet, so they are sleeping in our computer room, actually an office, and their stuff, and our stuff, is in boxes all over the house. We are very distracted by the build and every day has new challenges. We also have our son Jonathan and his sweet family living around the corner, less than 2 miles away. They eat dinner with us about 3 times a week and Jonathan and Whitley bring the boys over fairly regularly to hang out, swim or help Poppa weed or pick the garden.
If you don't live near family or don't want to do life with the family you do have, find others who share your faith, beliefs, concerns, ideals. Build relationships with them. Volunteer at a school, retirement home or daycare. There are so many people who need attention and would love to have your influence in their lives.
These ideas are just that...ideas. My ideas, that have worked well for me. What I want to know is what are your ideas? What are your areas of expertise or knowledge that you can share with others? I didn't think many parents would be interested in learning how to have a great attitude or how to talk so your children listen better, but quite a few are and check in regularly. You have something unique to you that you can share. Ask around. You may be very surprised to find the things you take for granted, because they are easy for you, are the very things other people struggle with and would love to know what you do to succeed.
Let me know in the comments below what things you do well. What you feel you have to offer and to share. As we help others we don't have as much time to focus on how sad we are that our children are leaving home...instead we think of all the great things they are going to do... and we can discover new ways God can use us in our new season of life!
Article by Ruth Grunstra
All Rights Reserved
Hi I'm Ruth
What is the biggest challenge you are facing with your child? My husband and I had the first of our 8 children in 1984 and our youngest in 2002. We've been married since 1980 and we are always learning new ways to engage our children. We would love to hear from you. Contact us and let us know what you have found that works and what doesn't, or ask me a question.
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