Let the Family Changes Happen
Watching your kids grow up is an exciting time, but never did I think about how I would feel when they left the house for college. You’d think it would be met with excitement and pride as they enter the next chapter, and it definitely was. However, I should’ve planned ahead and brought tissues for the way home. When we dropped our oldest daughter off at college, my husband and my younger daughter had tears rolling down our faces. We were about to return home as a family of three, which was definitely going to be a change.
A New Dynamic
This was the first of many family life shifts I experienced. It definitely took some time to make adjustments. I was now cooking for three, and only had to worry about chauffeuring one child around. It was an adjustment period for us all. It actually became an opportunity for us to really get to know our 13-year-old daughter as her own person, outside of being a sibling.
There is something to be said about spending one on one time with your children. There were new topics that would come up at the dinner table that may have otherwise been lost in a family conversation. Did we miss our older daughter? Immensely. However, we knew we had done our job as parents. We knew we had dropped off our oldest daughter as a strong and independent women, and she was going to succeed and find her way.
Whenever our oldest would come home from school for the holidays or for the summer, we immediately reverted back to our family of four. It would happen so easily, regardless of how much time had gone by. It became more time cherished, as visits home were just visits. Since we only had a certain amount of time, we made sure to do the things we missed the most. It’s kind of hard to have a competitive game night with a group of three, so the competitiveness of my family had certainly returned.
Taking Mom’s Advice
When you’re younger and your mom is giving you advice, you tend to shrug it off. When you grow older, you realize “Wow, she was actually SO right.” There are a handful of quotes from my mom that stick with me to this very day. One of them is “children are lend-lease. You have 18 years to mold them into independent, kind, loving people, and then you have to let them go.” This one always stuck with me along with “parenting and family is forever.” It’s kind of the in between stage of being a parent and being their friend. You have until their eighteen to build them into those strong sons or daughters, and then it’s their turn to take those lessons and fly.
The Biggest Change of All
After four years at school, our oldest daughter moved home from school, and we were back to our original foursome. We thought it would take time to adjust, but everything just fell right into place as nothing had changed. However, we were in for the biggest change of our lives. Three months after our daughter moved home, my husband past away in a tragic accident. Overnight our family dynamic had changed – without any preparation or warning.
Herculean Family Changes
The changes that ensued in our family were herculean. Once again, the empty chair at the table was very noticeable but this time there would be no returning to our family-of-four dynamic. My role drastically changed, borne out of necessity. My daughters were both young adults, but it did not make it any easier. After months and months, we settled into our new family dynamic. When I look back, I am amazed at their strength and resiliency. We learned to laugh again, to have fun, and to accept our life shift.
College: Round Two
One year later, it was my younger daughter’s time to head off to college. Again, I was so excited and proud, but knew we were heading home, we were going to be a family of two. Living with my older daughter gave me a unique time to get to know this young adult daughter of mine. She was now in her early twenties and working at her first job in the same industry I had start my career. Over time, our relationship shifted to a friendship. It was great to get to know each other in that way, and something I will always cherish.
Empty Nester Time
A couple years later, my older daughter moved out and I found myself being an empty nester for the first time. I was proud of my daughter for moving on and “adulting,” but, I unapologetically admit to a 15 minute, tear-filled, full-on pity party. Can you blame me? After a brief moment, I dried my eyes, took several big breaths, pulled up my big girl panties, and emphatically told myself “You’ve got this!”
Two years later, my younger daughter graduated from college and moved home for the summer. I knew this was short-term so, I knew not being an empty nester wouldn’t last long. Once again, it was myself and my younger daughter. We bonded on a new level, as now she was a young adult too. She was only home for a few months as eventually she relocated for her first job.
Dynamics are Always Changing
Throughout our lifetime, family dynamics will always be changing. Between moving in, moving out, visits home, and vacations together, the fact is that life is full of shifts. I’m sure everyone would agree that 2020 has changed almost everyone’s family dynamic.
When COVID hit, we saw college students abruptly coming home in March and younger students suddenly doing school from their bedroom. Many people were either furloughed or lost their jobs. Suddenly we were all locked down and had to grasp numerous changes thrown at us at one time.
If you had told me that my young adult daughters, both of whom had moved to New York to start new jobs would return home, I wouldn’t have believed you. But, the year had us all making adjustments, most of which we didn’t plan for.
Here we are a family of three again for the foreseeable future. Many friends of mine are also are living with our adult children. I have t0 admit, I have truly enjoyed this time with my daughters over the past 7 months. I know there are many people who have been by themselves throughout 2020, and I couldn’t imagine doing the same. This time its them has been a blessing, and we have all learned to make changes to accommodate this new dynamic. Some of the changes are still happening day by day.
Blessing in Disguise
I will say, though I love having my daughters home, I am sad for them and many young adults who should be enjoying their twenties. My daughters went to New York to temporarily pack up their apartment. On their way to the airport to return to Florida, I found myself saying “I am so excited to see you both, but I feel bad it’s under these circumstances.” They do get mad when I make comments like that, because we all just have to remember that everything happens for a reason. We would have never had the chance to all live together again before the pandemic. We continue to cherish this time together, as we do know it is temporary, especially as they get older.
Finding Ways to Cope with Change
My younger daughter gifted me with the book Journey to the Heart which has daily meditations and reflections. Each day consists of a short reading to give you inspiration throughout your day. Ironically, my very first reading was titled You Haven’t Lost Your Place where they address life shifts that make us feel we’ve lost our place. It happens when you feel out of tune, balance, and rhythm. It perfectly describes how I feel when people leave, and how the shape of our life changes. It encourages you that moving forward shouldn’t be scary, it should be a time of growth and happiness. If you have gone through something similar to myself, I definitely recommend purchasing this book. And for those that have not tried meditation, give it a shot.
So as we spend the next who-knows-how-many months together again, I am confident that we will be okay with this newest shift in our family dynamic until it changes again. And when that happens, we will all continue to grow and adapt.