Updated: Jun 20, 2019
What Parents Really Feel Like When Their Kids Are Ready To Leave The Nest
When I hear the words kicking and screaming I immediately visualize a small child not getting their way. That’s not to say I haven’t witnessed a few adults like the egocentric, Will Ferrell, in the movie Anchorman, who can still throw out a good temper tantrum when they aren’t happy with a situation. I'm sorry but he cracks me up! We’ve all seen what we’d call an “adult child” in action and sometimes the only recognizable difference between them and a toddler is the notable rating change in vocabulary from G to R!
All that to be said, kicking and screaming can come from a place of desperation and uncertainty, especially for parents when their children are getting ready to leave the nest. Now that June is here and graduation for some is imminent, it’s not uncommon for parents to feel like falling on the ground, flailing their hands and feet and tearfully screaming, “don’t gooooo!”
Why is that? I'm pretty sure these are the same children who have been driving most of us crazy, probably since middle school and yet, when it is time to move on, we, the parents, want to dig in our heels and refuse to let them go without a fight. Most of these fights, of course, are internal, and battle within our hearts. We would never, well maybe some, but most, would never, carry on in such a desperate display in front of our children or anyone else. But the struggle to let them go, even if we try to hide it, is still real.
I’ve learned from watching and listening to other parents that it doesn’t even matter sometimes if a child physically moves away or still remains in the home. It’s the idea that they won’t need us as much anymore that makes us stumble and trips up our emotions. It’s interesting really because most children I know that have graduated and moved on in either college, tech school, the workforce, or military are still on what I call the parents “payroll.” In other words, they are independent in their daily decisions, but not so much financially. I wish we could set a graduation date for that! I would love to send out invitations that announced our child was finally going to be making enough money to support themselves in every aspect of life!
I mean think about it, that’s when we should be throwing parties! I would be crying all kinds of happy tears if I knew I wasn’t having to spend X amount of dollars on at least one of my children anymore. Anyway...a parent can dream.
However, in the time between now and their full independence, role reversals can happen in our moments of uncertainty and sadness. We turn into the unwilling child getting prepared to get dropped off for kindergarten and they turn into the confident adult, reassuring us that everything will be okay.
The truth is, they are unsure as well. Although their excitement to conquer new experiences is at the forefront, they still need us just as much as we need them. And even though down the road they will outgrow the need to be supported financially, they will never outgrow needing our emotional support and love for the rest of their lives.
Yes, the separation anxiety can be daunting for sure, but I realized that’s just because we all fear the same thing, change. Daily life will indeed change. They will have different commitments that won’t always conform to the life you once had. But, that’s okay. One of the greatest things that a parent can witness is watching a child move on to the next stage of life and see that all the preparation getting them to this point was so worth it.
In June, but more so, in August or September, when the graduates are settled into their new places, we and they will have an opportunity to grow and experience life differently. Not bad, just simply different.
If you have other children left behind it will be a time to reconnect and re-establish new relationships within a different household dynamic. If you are an empty nester, it will allow for you to appreciate new moments alone or experience things you didn’t have time for before. Learning to embrace how life might look different is having faith in them and yourself knowing that God has an incredible life prepared ahead for all of you.
If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living. ~Gail Sheehy
Change can be difficult and tears will be shed but, don’t let those tears blind you from all the greatness that is to come. Change is an incredible gift, for us and our children. I don't want to be the same person my child sees when they return home, I want to be better, stronger and happy and I want the same for them. Embracing change gives us multiple chances to be the best version of who God created us to be. And even though you may feel compelled to resist the upcoming change, try and be grateful for it. Pray for your family's change as an opportunity to grow, gain wisdom and live life to the fullest.
Nothing ever really goes away, it just changes into something else. Something beautiful.~Sarah Ockler
In the weeks and months ahead I will try to calm the internal kicking and screaming in my heart by focusing on a few obvious gifts for myself and my family. I encourage you to spotlight your own upcoming growth and the value it will add to you and your child's life.
The opportunity to see my son graduate.
His personal growth that will come out of what’s ahead.
My personal growth that will come out of what’s ahead.
More time with my other children.
Reflecting on and polishing my parenting skills.
Enjoying and thanking God for each age and stage I am here to witness.
Learning how to let go and still be present.