Pandemic’s Lesson For Mourning Midway
Living through a pandemic has forced me to find the silver linings to cope with this new world we are navigating. In 2019, I found myself lost as a mother watching my boys finishing their middle-school years. I’ve heard of the “empty nest syndrome” but didn’t think I would be experiencing it now.
When I became a mother in 2006, I remember friends advising, “cherish each moment with your son. It flies by. These were the friends who were facing the empty nest as I was filling up my nest. I was drowning in diapers while dreaming of a day when no one needed me to open a juice pouch.
Two years later, I had two boys in diapers (my boys are 17 months apart in age). My mother passed away when my youngest was 1-1/2 years old. It overwhelmed me with two active toddlers and grieving for my best friend and mother. The idea of an empty nest was far down that tunnel of parenthood.
The only time I dealt with the empty nest was when I left home. I was an only child to a single parent. I felt guilty when I moved three hours away. It was my time to fly, but I felt responsible for her happiness.
I was fortunate to work from home full time before my kids started school. My days were filled with picnics at the park, trips to the zoo, and reading books at the library. By the end of the day, exhaustion overshadowed potential alone time. An empty nest seemed like a great stage at this point.
Then my kids started elementary school. I gained some breathing room, which I needed because I ran a full-time business from my home. It gave me a good balance of going to my kids’ school functions and having time to work. During this time, I felt a part of their school journey, volunteering in the classroom, going to their presentations, and building yummy frosted gingerbread houses.
My empty-nester friends advised me again that “they do come back to you.” I know they will. But I didn’t realize there was this “preparing to leave the nest” phase. I didn’t realize how fast they grew up. My mother is gone, and my kids are jogging towards their adulthood.
If I could push “rewind” and do it all over again, I would:
Practice mindfulness. Settle into the present moment which means. . .
Ignore the little kid toy messes. Instead, get on the floor and play with your kids. Purchase some cute buckets and teach them to put away their toys. If they don’t do it “right,” don’t stress about it. One day those toys will be out in the garage sale or hiding in the attic. I miss the messes. My boys leave their backpacks in the entry away. They leave every sort of ball there is in the entryway. My solution? Placing a huge basket in the entryway.
Pick your battles. There were days when I cringed at what my son picked out to wear to school (that shirt does not go with those shorts!), but I kept my mouth shut. He’s not hurting anyone by his choice in fashion (I think).
Enjoy the snuggle time. Yes, they want to watch Toy Story for the 50th time. Pick Toy Story. Before you know it, you don’t remember the last time you snuggled.
We have been inching our way to the empty nest, and to be honest, it’s jarred me. I’m proud of them as they gain their independence, but I miss being a mom to young kids. When I drive by a park, I get teary, remembering the picnics and fun afternoons at the local park. I go shopping and see the little ones pushing their mini shopping cart. Poof, that stage is over. Yes, they love us, but there is nothing like the energy and unconditional love of a baby, toddler, and child. Once those hormones hit, some of that unconditional feeling seems to go to the waste side. It’s normal. I was the same way. I went through the “mom, you’re so annoying and don’t understand me” phase.
As we are living in the time of Covid, this “new normal” has brought my family closer. Because of distance learning, my kids are home. They need me to help with homework. It’s been challenging, but I’m embracing my own advice that I gave above. I’ve settled into the “right now.” I don’t want this Covid-world to continue. I want them to be attending school in-person with their friends. But since this is our world, for now, I’m embracing this time as a family. They are expected to clean their rooms and do their daily chores, but I’m making the conscious choice to not hover. They may not do those chores as I would. If the end result is the same, that’s all that matters.
Each time I login into my Facebook account, I’m greeted with memories of those toddler days. I would give anything to go back for a day to toys all over the living room. I would. I was that mom that sat on the floor and played with my kids, but I want more of that time. This pandemic is teaching me a lesson that time is precious; make the best of it, laughing, hugging, and cuddling together. That is what being a family is about, being there for each other during the good and difficult times.
Photo by Geri Chapple on Unsplash