Is it just me, or do other parents feel their heartstrings yanked apart when their kids leave? I know I’m not the only mom to experience that definitive ache when a child leaves for university, or moves into their own place, or gets married. But what about the incidental visits? You know, the ones that last a few days or a few hours? Why even then does my heart feel hollow after they leave?
It could be the whole enneagram four thing… I feel EVERYTHING. A LOT. It could be that we homeschooled for a bunch of years and became rather close-knit. Or it could be that somehow, despite that we homeschooled that long, my kids and I still get along shockingly well. Whatever it is, the dragging feeling that arrives on their departure can be difficult to shake.
It happened again this week. Elanna had a few days off and came home for a visit, and Konnor dropped by after a hair appointment in town. Whenever the big kids stop by it warms my heart more than I ever thought possible, and I drop everything. When we were in the thick of homeschooling, I used to dream of all the things I would do once they were launched. Hours of writing, painting, gardening, and tea-drinking floated around the fringes of my thoughts about my future. But now, when they come home, all of the things that seemed so shiny, pale in significance.
At the height of COVID, I could have chosen to begin my next novel, painted several paintings, or spent time thoroughly beautifying the garden or further decluttering, but all I really wanted to do was drink in these precious, unexpected, live-in moments with my adult kids. I mean, when was this ever going to happen again, and why would I waste it locked in a room plucking away at my computer or sorting stuff when they were once again under our roof?
As I’ve mentioned in past posts, about four years ago I embarked on a serious decluttering of my life, both my physical possessions and my use of time. The result was beautiful, wide-open space to breathe in all the blessings and truly soak in what mattered most to me—my family, my friends, and my God.
As if it were possible, COVID ushered in a further decluttering, an even fuller simplification of life. Despite the darker reason behind the need to make our lives smaller, we learned that we can do without many luxuries and still be okay. Our siphoned-down lives forced us to find beauty in simplicity and a slower pace. In our case, and maybe yours too, that more gentle period allowed precious time with each other.
And so, between that extended, unanticipated ‘COVID’ regrouping of our family, and these sporadic visits, I find my heart sighing in its attempts to both embrace and release the comings and goings of my grown kids, like inhaling and exhaling without missing a breath. But in truth, hasn’t it always been this way at every stage of our kids’ lives? The gathering in and letting go to allow them to grow? And so, I find myself struggling to do so even now. My heart turned inside out with the welcoming embrace and tucked neatly right side ’round as they drive away.
I hazard that’s just how God feels about us. We show up for a time, have a chat, then go on our way. I can’t help but think that God is delighted with those visits, that they bring him such joy. That he gives us his undivided attention as he listens intently to all we have to tell him. That he anticipates the next time, and that his heart may somehow ache a bit when we are gone too long—like a parent longing for the presence of their child again.
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
~ Isaiah 49:15-16