Roots and Wings, Mother’s Day from the Other Side
There is a saying,” there are two things you should give your children, one is roots and the other is wings.” I absolutely loved having children and instilling roots. Building a cozy nest for my children, feathering it with leaves of love and twigs of security, was a task I relished! I desperately wanted children and was thrilled to have two daughters born 15 months apart. As time has a tendency to do, it passed, and those two daughters are now grown women and my nest is empty. The term “empty nest” has become a phrase tinged with melancholy, a sad woman sitting alone, yearning for the past. At the risk of being kicked out of the motherhood society, I’m going to come clean and admit in public, on Mother’s Day, that I love this stage of life!
When my children were born, I was full of energy and enthusiasm, ready to take on mothering with great gusto. I cuddled and rocked, sang and read, got down on the floor and played, orchestrated messy art projects and fully immersed myself in the joy of raising children. But nostalgia hasn’t erased my memory of the tough times. Looking in the rear view mirror of parenting, I see rose colored images of my beautiful daughters cuddled on my lap listening to stories, but I also remember sleepless nights walking the hall with a colicky baby. Mixed in with the sweet memories of cuddling and playing are recollections of ear infections and temper tantrums. Then there was that apocalyptic week from Hell when both my toddlers had the stomach flu. That was the week I felt the full brunt of being a single parent! Each stage of parenting held its own pleasures and its unique challenges. In retrospect, the years did fly by, but I also know there were days and nights that seemed to last forever. Parenting well is akin to running a marathon, waking up the next day and realizing you’re expected to run it again, and again, and again..!
When my children left for college, it was time to give them their wings and let them fly. The earmark of successful parenting is that you work your way out of a job. We spend 18 years preparing them to be independent and although it may be hard to let them go, would we really want it any other way? Watching them struggle to become full-fledged adults is scary but also exhilarating. There are usually some rough spots along the way, a few falls on their first flights out of the nest and sometimes even a short time returning to the nest. Eventually they fly, and we mothers watch with excitement and pride as they live their dreams.
This “empty nest” stage of life is also about being selfish. I am unabashedly selfish, I feel I’ve earned the right to be so. I now have time to linger over the morning paper and coffee. There is no one needing me to go over spelling words or drive them to school. I delight in the fact that the house is as clean at the end of the day as it was at the beginning of the day. The laundry has gone from being a daily chore to once a week. I buy what I want at the grocery store and cook whatever appeals to me. This is my time in life to explore hobbies, have adventures, and pursue my own goals.
I can’t honestly say I miss science fair projects, driving on field trips, the hours of math homework, the back seat bickering, or preparing three meals a day. When I look at our family photo albums, I sigh and momentarily miss those sweet little girls in the pictures. While I was in the midst of parenting young children, I loved most of what went with it, but unlike some women, I don’t wish that time back. As Ecclesiastes says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” This season of motherhood, with grown children, has its own rewards. My little birdies now have their own nests and have become strong, intelligent, independent women I call friends as well as daughters. How could a mother ask for anything better?! Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers at all stages of parenting!