I read an article by Heather Plett about "Holding space for someone". She describes what happened when her mom was dying and a very compassionate and wise palliative care nurse attended to her and their whole family. This nurse offered help, gave space, offered some instruction on how to handle the intensity of the last days but also gave freedom for the family to grieve and communicate as they needed to. It's a fantastic article and really worth the read. I'll include it here for you. Go ahead and read it if you like. http://heatherplett.com/2015/03/hold-space/
The nurse in the article reminded me of few of our friends who are chaplains. I love hearing their stories. They enter a hospital room and greet the patient and/or the family and enter into their space. They don't know if the family wants help, or to be left alone. Do they want information or prayer? So they enter the space with a sense of respect, mystery and faith.
As I read this article yesterday, I began to see a similarity between parenting young adults and being a chaplain . . . especially in the beginning phases of this 'empty nest phase'. They don't need the attentive care that we gave them when they were little. They don't need the same kind of correction/instruction/reassurance that is necessary through the teenage years. They need something different, something new and what feels like, at times, something much less.
I'm always looking for a new way to look at things. Like when the kids went to kindergarten and their teacher was now their role model and suddenly knew more about everything than we did. That 'felt' like rejection, but it wasn't. But my heart hadn't caught up to the logic in this so I needed fresh perspective in order for my heart to transition. I sat down with the kindergarten teacher and asked her advice on how to go through this transition. She suggested that perhaps I gave them space and didn't 'volunteer' for 4 months because it appeared our kids were enjoying their independence, so give it to them, let them grow! That was helpful and my perspective changed and so did my heart!
So, in this new phase of life we're in now, with 6'5" tall, strong, young adult sons, one at home and one away at school, I am looking for a new perspective again.
Perhaps the 'chaplain' image works. We communicate that we are interested, that we care and are available for conversation if they want, that we love them . . . but we allow them to occupy their own space and time. Like a chaplain, we don't force ourselves into their space and demand that they spend time together or tell us their concerns or stories . . . we invite and we respond with respect to their answers. They are developing maturity and relationships that exist outside of us and our experiences with them. That is completely appropriate and healthy. But if we're not attentive to this healthy change, we may take their independence as that good ole' kindergarten rejection syndrome again!
So, after we invite and offer our care to them, then what? Well, like a chaplain might do, we bless them and leave the room. We go for lunch. We go swimming, we read, we learn, we nurture our marriage and friendships. We take care of ourselves. As they separate from us, we separate from them and develop more of who we are apart from them. A healthy separation . . . a bond that is true and lasting, but doesn't need day to day interaction in order to survive. A deep bond that has been built, and will take on new characteristics as it matures and develops. Our wording can change, the way we relate to them, our nicknames for them might need to change, the amount of times we call or text or ask questions per day might need to change.
The article also references 'holding space' for ourselves too. That we can't truly be present for others if we are a wreck ourselves, if we are needy and desperate for care . . . we may need to attend to that first.
I've been sick with bronchitis for about 2-3 weeks and haven't been out much, so today I decided to book some creative time out of the house for some fresh air and fresh perspective! But as I sit here in this coffee shop and see the variety of people walking in and out of the doors, I'm reminded of how I used to do this in my early twenties, before the kids were born, and 21 years later, here I am again! :) It's a new time, a new phase and worth the effort to find out what this is going to be about. Oh, I've been dabbling in my own independence along the way. I've been in this coffee shop many times while they've been in school. I've worked, I've continued on with my education and had experiences that have been separate from them. But I'm recognizing a pattern of relating to them that is pretty deeply engrained and I know needs to continue to change.
One of our friends says, "Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end." So as my parenting job, in its 'official' way ends, there is a beginning that is happening and I want to pay attention to what that is!
Here's to endings and beginnings . . . or maybe I'm just in the middle. It's hard to tell. :)