Children leaving can be bittersweet

By Joan Clayton: Religion Columnist

The “empty nest” brings a myriad of emotions, including memories, tears and separation anxiety. When my empty nest occurred I happened to read an article about “letting go” of children. It emphasized the fact that now they are your best friends.

I thought, what are they talking about? I’m their mother!

I suppose I thought it would last forever … the growing up years. Rock hunting, picnics, Little League, band, basketball, all the fun things you do with your children and where did the time go in those wonderful years? It seems like only yesterday. Unlike the eagle I would have clung to my children until the nest disintegrated.

Of course they come back for visits, but for me their visits are all too short. When our middle son left home for the first time to move five hours away, the tears began to flow.

“Don’t cry Mom. A Christian never has to say goodbye.”

After the wedding of our oldest son I opened the door to his closet and found three things in a little box … a “steely” marble, his two front teeth and a note.
“Dear Mom, I will always love you.” I burst into tears!

At 19, our youngest son stood by the door with a suitcase.

“You’ve been wonderful parents, but it’s time for me to grow up.” I still have a plaque hanging on my wall that he wrote in first grade. “Dear Mom, you are the best mother.”

As you can see, I had to be the world’s best “clinging vine.” I couldn’t let go of my children, so they let go of me.

Through the years I’ve learned a lot. As a parent I’m sure I made a lot of goofs but hopefully I left more loving memories than mistakes. Children are precious plants growing in the garden of our hearts.

Now that I’m a grandmother I realize God loves our children even more than we do. I’ve also learned I can’t always be with my children, but God can. “The Lord says, ‘As surely as I live, your children will be like jewels that a bride wears proudly’” (Isaiah 49:18 NCV).

I’ve learned to let them go, to let them soar, to fly. I must step back for them to pursue the plan God has for their lives. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

When I am tempted to worry about my children, I go to Proverbs 14:26:

“He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.”

A friend related a wonderful quote to me about children, “In order to keep them you have to let them go.”

I’ve learned some lessons from my “empty nest” experience and maybe they will help you:

1. Put your children in God’s hands and trust him.

2. Recognize your children must grow up and live their own lives.
3. Your role has now changed from being a parent. Yes, they are your best friends.

4. Rediscover your husband. It will make him so happy he probably won’t even miss the kids.

5. Develop other interests. Give yourself away. So many volunteer agencies need your help.

6. Always remember, God has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV). God never lets go of his children.

Relax and enjoy the return on your investment. You have given many years to those kids, so now sit back and say, “Look out world, here they come. They are going to make you better, sweeter, and happier. They’re going to make it. Why?

Because they always knew they were loved!