Nature has a way of showing you life in micro. I saw this first hand over the last few months. This spring’s lesson? Letting go.
Outside our kitchen window, a bird built the perfect cozy nest for her eggs. She lined the nest with leaves and created the perfect space for her youngsters. Daddy bird was always close by too, keeping a look out, ready to protect his brood.
Pretty soon, we heard chirping and saw the telltale signs of beaks straining for food. Mama bird delivered and started the long process of feeding, nurturing, and getting her babies ready to leave the nest.
A few weeks later, we saw the gradual growth of those babies—their first attempt at flight. The mother encouraged the chicks from the ground, reassuring them after each failed attempt and demonstrating how to flap and fly. After several flops, they got the hang of it and after a few hours, all the babies had left the nest, ready to explore the world.
Sound familiar? As we wrap up graduation season, many of us are watching our babies fly for the first time. I can definitely relate to this mama and papa bird. After putting years of blood, sweat, and tears into your children, it seems like overnight they’ve grown. Looking back, it seems like yesterday that they were taking their first steps in the family room, playing youth sports, or learning to drive. Now their off to college, with only your prayers and 18 years of guidance to lead them.
It’s a strange feeling, the empty nest. On one hand, it’s exhilarating to see the product of your hard work coming to fruition. There’s also worry—did you teach them all you could? And then there’s a sense of loss. When the house echoes a bit more, it can feel lonely. But you did your best, taught them all you knew, and helped them grow into independent people that will go on to contribute to the rest of the world. In other words, it’s complicated.
Want a little advice from someone who’s been there? Give yourself a little grace as they mature and take each step out of your care and into their own personhood. Relish all you did as a parent and trust that you did your best.
And give your child a little grace too. They will find their feet or stretch their wings in the adult world. They are feeling their way along, meeting new people, exploring new ideas, and learning life skills they never knew they needed. Give them time to learn to advocate for themselves–they can do it because of all the tools you gave them.
They may not get it right the first time. Some might not know how to communicate or identify their feelings. Fear of the unknown is highly likely. Giving them the space to explore the unknown will make them stronger in the long run. Our jobs now are to be the trusted advisors and, hopefully, friends. Just like the papa bird, be patient, give them space, and watch them spread their wings and soar. Letting go is tough, but so worth it in the end.