Recently I talked with a woman whose final child had left the nest. And you know how she felt about it? Ecstatic. Proud. Accomplished. She had spent her years mothering and guiding and directing and shepherding and her kids were successfully out in the world doing what exactly they were supposed to be doing. And she was celebrating that.
Not only was she celebrating it, but she was reveling in the reprieve that the empty nest brought, pursuing her passion, and living a new dream. Throughout all those years of parenting she hadn’t lost her dreams, but held on to them, deferred until the time was right.
The time was finally right.
I contemplated this for awhile as I looked around at my own family. My oldest is school-aged; I don’t necessarily consider myself a ‘parent of small children’ anymore. It was a little strange when I realized that. I felt surprise that it happened so abruptly, and I also felt like had lost a valuable identity. An association.
We celebrate parents of small children. You know, the ones in the trenches. We tell them to enjoy every minute and cherish every snuggle. That it ends too fast and then those days are over.
But are the seasons following that first one somehow less special?
When we place so much weight on those early years and get to a point that we dread their end and mourn their passing, we unintentionally devalue the years that follow. That somehow they’re less important than those little years. Less rewarding. Less fun.
I admit that I’m still early on the pathway of this motherhood journey. But mamas, let’s take the pressure off. It’s entirely possible to look wistfully back on those early years and remember fondly the times when our kids were teeny and swung easily up on our hips and their little heads fit perfectly into the crease of our necks. But let’s not idolize those years to the point that if we’re not enjoying every moment that we somehow think that we’re failing, or that when our children leave that stage that somehow our parenting efforts are less noble.
God has given us these children to parent through ALL of their stages. And each stage will have its unique challenges and unique joys. And ALL of the stages are equally important. Not just those little years.
Let’s stop dreading the end of the current season and start celebrating the beginning of each new one. After all, it’s a privilege to walk through them all.