I have two seniors who will both graduate in May. One will graduate from Ole Miss (Woo hoo! One off the payroll!) and one will graduate from high school and go on to college. So the term “empty nest” has been floating around the house like a large bubble a child blows out of a soapy wand. As the words whisper around our lives they sound pretty, but eventually reality comes in like a sharp steak knife and pops the empty nest bubble leaving a soapy film of sadness because the bubble is gone.
A part of me has come to loathe the term “empty nest.” My children were involved in all sorts of activities during middle and high school, and therefore my husband and I have been very involved parents. I’ll be honest. I don’t really want my nest to be empty. I want to go to cheer camps and basketball games. I don’t want to give up awards ceremonies or proms. And one of the worst thoughts to me is not having a child come home after school asking me “What’s for dinner?” and then looking at me with excitement or dread, depending on my answer.
A momma bird spends so much time carefully building her nest for her babies. She picks out twigs and branches and then uses them to build a foundation where she feels confident she can hatch her young in safety. Often times a momma bird will find pieces of something soft to line parts of her nest so that those little chicks will not harm themselves on the prickly parts of the twigs.
“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself – where she may have her young…” (Psalm 84:8)
And the babies come, and the momma bird then works even harder to provide food for her hungry brood and to protect them from the many different predators that would seek to harm them. Who knew being a momma would be so hard at times and so exhausting? Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years…
And then one day, it is time. It is time for the babies to leave the nest, to fly on their own. Is the momma bird ready? Are the chicks ready? Neither may want this moment to happen, but it does. Babies grow, and then all of a sudden it is time for the babies to fly away and build nests – build lives – of their own.
And the momma bird is left alone, staring at her empty nest. She thinks about all the time she spent building the nest and recalls how easy life was at times, and also how difficult. She feels the gratitude in her heart for all the blessings her babies have given her over the years as one tear, and then two begin to trickle down her cheek.
I know, birds don’t cry. But human mommas do. No, this momma isn’t ready for an empty nest, but it’s coming. I can’t begin to thank God for the blessing of my family, and I can’t stop time from running away like a toddler runs after the ice cream truck. And it’s strange to be both sad and happy at the same time, but that’s where I find myself these days as I watch my nest becoming emptier with each passing day.
Happy, sad, thankful, grateful, peaceful.
A momma with a soon to be “empty nest.”