Once a mother hen, always a mother hen

PREVIEW Columnist

It’s graduation time and the empty-nest syndrome is starting to show up in many of us. Is it that we have lived through our children’s and grandchildren’s lives? Have they given us back our youth? I think that is what is happening.

A friend asked me if I was going to have empty-nest syndrome. I told her I was already in it. It’s funny, our own children graduated and I didn’t think much about it. My Sweet Al and I have been empty-nesters for at least 25 years. But, now that I have the last three grandchildren all graduating in the month of May, I’m having melancholy pangs and withdrawal symptoms.

Our friend said, “We were involved with our daughter in all her sports activities, and we loved working the concessions. We thought we would continue after she graduated, because we enjoyed it so much. But the next year we seemed to stop showing up. It wasn’t that necessary that we go to the games.”

I told her, “That’s what I’m afraid of. I don’t want it to happen, we’ve had too much fun going to the games, the regional and state meets. It was exciting to see our grandchildren and their friends excel. It was our social time. We basked in it, I wrote about it, and talked about it. What are we going to do now?”

I’m not ready to let go. But it’s not about us, it’s about them. It’s about giving them freedom to experience life and their future and letting go.

There were many times when the weather was horrible, we didn’t want to be out in it, but we bucked up, put on another layer, a heavier coat and showed up. I’m not sure if we’ll have that kind of tenacity if our own kids aren’t on the field.

Our grandson would call the night before each game. “Are you going to be at my game?”

I would always respond, “Of course we will.” Then I would look at Sweet Al and say, “We’ve got to go. It’s important to him that we show up.”

Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it was more important for us.

I have now stepped into another family. It’s our oldest daughter’s family. I’ve come for three weeks to Grass Valley, Calif. From May 3 until May 24, there are several end-of-school activities. It’s all about celebrating their graduation.

There is our granddaughter’s senior art show, our grandson’s senior banquet and then our granddaughter’s graduation from college.

I missed all those sweet times when they were experiencing life during their school years in Grass Valley. You can’t be everywhere, in every place, all the time.

I listened to our grandson, Spencer, who has led the Senior Class Revival each week. This morning, he and his two friends passed the torch to the next three seniors who would lead. They bought lighters and made a speech, commending the young men of their leadership gifts. They passed the lighters onto the new seniors who would lead their class next year.

Our grandson in Grass Valley has been selected as valedictorian. He’s had straight As for four years. He’s been asked to speak to his class. Since this young man is seeing high school as an impeding condition, getting in the way of his next step into life, he feels like making a speech is a punishment. He wants to leave the nest.

His take on it is this, “I’m going to tell the kids, do a good job, and make a few Bs so you don’t have to make a speech.”

This valedictorian speech is not so much for him, but maybe for his parents, grandparents and his friends.

Our granddaughter, Tiffany, has had straight As and has been on the dean’s list at Biola University for the past four years. At our granddaughter’s art show, I was amazed how this young lady met all the requirements for a professional show. Her concept was deep, concise, and her statement was deliberate. Her art expressed who she is, what she thought and how she felt. I could not have been more proud of her. She has been preparing her life to go into the world of art. She, too, is ready to leave the nest.

I lived that evening through her art. I’ve been involved with many art shows over my life.  This one was the most special of all. She gave me an art show invitation, which said, “Grandma, I’m so thankful that you could come for my show. You have been so influential in my art practice, my whole life and I am excited to share this time with you. Thank you for always supporting me and pouring into my life. You mean so much to me.”

Wow! I didn’t know I had done that. I was just doing my art and pulling her in to what I enjoyed doing.

That night, I signed her guest book, “My granddaughter, the artist, live and enjoy your life through the arts. I’m handing my paintbrush over to you. From your grandmother, the artist.”

We are looking forward to the graduation for Pagosa Springs High School and the graduation parties afterward. I told my daughter in Grass Valley, “That’s just the way they do it in a small town. They have graduation in the morning, and then go from student’s to student’s parties for the whole day. That’s a tradition. They’ve always done it that way in Pagosa.”

Once a mother hen, always a mother hen. The nest gets smaller and smaller for these kids as they grow bigger and bigger. They insist on trying their wings. We want them to fly with our wings. But haven’t they been learning all of this time how to fly, test their wings and fly higher than we have?

Final Brushstroke: Didn’t we have fun these last few years watching our kids and grandkids try their wings? I guess this empty-nest syndrome we’re feeling is about us living our lives through them. Now it’s time to see them live their own lives. And, maybe, they’ll fly home every once in a while.

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This story was posted on May 22, 2014.