Roots and Wings…..by Bonnie Jarvis
On a pleasant September afternoon in 1976 I sat in the sunlight finishing a costume for my little five-year-old son to wear in the children s’ parade at a local exhibition. My baby girl was asleep, and my husband at work, and it was so quiet. Music drifted from the stereo, but my mind was not as settled as it may have been on any other given day.
This was my little boys’ first day at school. I had walked him to the bus stop in the morning, and coming back home I could not stop the tears, nor the fears, that this milestone was causing. I wondered how he would manage on his first school day, and how I would get through a long day without him.
But I was busy with a toddler, and time passed fairly quickly. I seemed to be coping fairly well until my husband arrived home. He stood leaning on the door, watching me work on the costume. And then he spoke the words that brought all the tears to the surface.
“You miss him don’t you?”, he asked quietly. The next hour was a blur as I looked at the world through tears. My husband consoled me, then we worked together for a few minutes putting the finishing touches on our sons’ bicycle. Completing the decorating was much more difficult with blurred vision. However I found myself laughing through the tears, my husband left to go back to work, the baby awoke, and in a short time Johns’ school bus was back.
We had all survived that first break, that first letting go, that first day apart. It was always John, Heather and Mom, together every day, while Dad went to work. I had taken a break in my career to be home with the children and I have never regretted doing so. I am grateful that I could be with them. As I look at them now at the ages of thirty-two and twenty-eight, I realize that the time with them then was worth its’ seconds in diamonds.
This week the children are all decked out in new jeans, sneakers, beautifully colored backpacks and lunch kits, fresh hair cuts and wide smiles. For the occasional little children there are tears as they face their first days at school. A whole new world opens for them, new friends to be made, new places to see, and new rules to follow. Some children are more stressed than others, but they go and soon they are coming home with stories of their teacher, schoolmates, and grand chronicles of what someone did or didn’t do.
Life as a student has started for each child, and for each child going to school for the first time, there is a mother with a lump in her throat and an ache in her heart. Until now the children have been totally ‘Moms’ charges. But not anymore. The time has come to share them with the world, to encourage them to have wings, preparing them for flight eventually. But for these first few days the mother’s heart is aching. Something has come between her and the child whose life she holds dear, the child, that once born, made her for ever more vulnerable, protective, and acutely aware of potential dangers everywhere.
However to hold them back, to not encourage their growth and development, does them no favor. It is our duty to give them a stable home life, good food, care for their health and keep them safe. We create their roots by surrounding them with family, friends, books, music, and pets. We introduce them to the wonders of our world, and at the same time teach them safety rules and coping mechanisms to prepare them for life away from the cocoon of ‘home’.
My son was joined in school by his sister a few years later. He was ‘a big brother’, keeping a keen eye on his sister that he has always adored. And since that first day of school for my son many tears have been shed, many hilarious bouts of laughter have taken place, hundreds of good-byes have been muttered into coat collars, thousands of waves of hello and good-bye as they moved up through school, left for a center of higher education, finally flying away to another province. Countless phone calls, sleepless nights, and reunions have occurred for us since the first day apart.
It has been twenty-seven years since John took that first school bus ride from the end of a lane in a little place outside Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. He paved the way for his sister who couldn’t wait to join him wherever he happened to be. Yes, many years since that question by my husband and their father caused the tears to flow. He probably had tears too.
“You miss him don’t you?” Yes, I certainly do miss him, and I miss her too. My son and my daughter are part of me, as is my tiny grand daughter. But ‘Roots and Wings’ are what we as parents are obligated to give them. The ‘Roots’ were easy at times, difficult at other times. Developing traditions as a family, growing and learning, riding out the rough spots, and helping each other, created a strong bond and a close unit, giving them the tools that prepared them to leave the nest.
But the ‘Wings’- letting them go, taking flight with the very wings we gave them is by far the most difficult challenge. However, it has to be if they are to establish their own lives. Gradually we adjust, but we still long for the door to open and the lunch kits to come flying in, followed by the laughter and crazy jokes they brought home with them.
So, your child left for school, university, or a new job did they? You will miss them, won’t you? But it will be OK. You have given them their ‘Wings’. It is how it is meant to be.
A Relative Age…..by Teresa K. Flatley
Age is relative, isn’t it?
As a rather intimidating birthday arrives for me this month, or as people can be heard to say loudly within my hearing, “Gee, someone is having a BIG birthday this month. I wonder who that could be?” Look no further. The buck stops here.
I am trying to be retrospective about this Major Life Event, of course, summoning all my knowledge of the eastern religions to help me. Unflappable is the attitude I’m going for. Calm in the line of fire, peaceful, mature.
I often wonder why we don’t get to choose our own age. Isn’t it true that we’re not getting older, we’re getting better? Aren’t we only as old as we feel? Getting older beats the alternative and all that. Yeah, right.
In our country there’s more of a stigma to accumulating years than in others. Other cultures revere age, but we don’t. More often we try to cover up the reality with surgeries, hair dye and clothes because it’s a sin to get old, especially if you are female.
Watching Sean Connery cavort in a movie with Catherine Zeta Jones tells us more than we need to know about how unsightly it is for a woman to age.
But what actually defines age? Lined faces, gray hair, stiff joints, lack of knowledge of Britney Spears?
Maturity, something we wish for our children, is something we ourselves shy away from. It’s a tough concept to define. Is maturity just knowing certain things or knowing right from wrong? Having a good idea of how we will react to life’s speedbumps in the road? Maybe knowing how you will react to adversity is a clue.
In most ways, facing a Monumental Birthday can be described as adverse. Even if you plan on ignoring the fact or try to accept it gracefully, others probably won’t let you. Either they want to think of you as older (and them not, of course) or they are anxious to pull you into their oldster club to join them in sitting back and letting the world pass you by.
I think taking note of a birthday is valuable. We wish for all people a long life but then we spend half of that time trying to make them feel inadequate because they have had the audacity to grow older. They are not quite up to the task.
There are some perks that come with a mature age. Like when you say, “I’ve never eaten swordfish,” people realize there’s some weight behind that statement because that’s a long time. Or when you say I’ve wanted to be a ballerina all my life, it has a certain impact. Much more so than when youngsters make those kinds of statements.
While we are living these later years, we are constantly being told they aren’t as good as ones we spent in our youth. Says who? Who ever decided that?
I say celebrate. However long a life you are blessed with, enjoy yourself, grab the gusto. Life should be a celebration because it is so precious. Enjoy every day rather than lamenting the passage of time. The past only serves to season the present.
Don’t let it hold you back. The future awaits. New and pure and unknown.
There’s a certain je ne s’ais qua that comes with growing older. Grasp it and hold on.
Avoiding Empty Nest Divorce…..(article courtesy of FirstThingsFirst.com)
Why do some couples embrace the empty nest while others end up in divorce court?
“There are lots of sides to the empty nest that are complicated,” said psychologist, Dr. Susan Hickman. “Many experience depression, feelings of sadness, anxiety, identity crisis and significant grief. I remember when our daughter loaded up the van and headed to Oregon. I sat on the curb and sobbed. I was inconsolable for several days.”
While response to the empty nest varies from couple to couple, women and couples with an only child seem to experience the loss more intensely.
“A huge part of dealing with the transition to the empty nest comes down to how strongly a person identifies with their parenting role to the exclusion of their own self-identity,” Hickman said. “When things come to an abrupt end, if all you have done for 18 years is focus on your child’s needs, many parents struggle to remember the kinds of things they enjoyed before children came into the picture.”
Additionally, it is not unusual for each person to experience the empty nest with differing emotions within the couple relationship. One person openly grieves the loss while the other deals with the loss by throwing themselves more into work or a project as a distraction. This has created significant conflict in many marriages.
So what is the key to transitioning to the empty nest with your marriage strong and ready for the next phase of life?
“First and foremost, avoid focusing on your children’s needs to the exclusion of your own needs and the needs of your marriage,” Hickman said. “Having children does not mean you give up your friends and the best interests of your marriage. When parents put children at the center of their world, the message they are sending their children is, your needs trump everybody else’s needs in this community.”
When your children are older, you may want to prepare for launching a new career when they launch. There is nothing wrong with taking a class or two, which in turn requires the kids to step up and help with chores and dinner preparation.
Remember, you are modeling how to do marriage well. If it is always about the children and never about the relationship, what message is being sent to your children?
Anything you don’t cultivate will die. Children demand a lot, but you don’t want to ignore your marriage relationship. It is the foundation for a stable home which research shows children need to thrive. Many parents complain they can’t go anywhere because their children just keep calling them and driving them crazy. Hickman contends that parents train their children how to treat them. Setting clear boundaries and expectations is essential.
“Preparing for the empty nest starts when your child is born,” Hickman said. “Your well-being and the well-being of your marriage are as important as the well-being of your child. Recognizing from the moment you find out you are pregnant that you have 18 years with this child, but you have the rest of your life with your spouse can help you cast a vision for keeping your marriage a priority.”
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