A cold, empty nest
Letting go of grown-up children is a longer, harder process than I thought, says Jenny Martin
When our children were small and utterly dependant on us, I used to say: ‘A time will come when neither of us is dependant on the other, and finally a day will arrive when we shall be dependent on them.’ I imagined it would be easy to go from one state to the other, and that the transition would be fast and painless. Now, it seems that there are not three but four states. That middle state of mutual independence is divided into two: first, the children leave home but keep coming back because they are single and the family home is still their base; then they get married and set up their own family unit, at which point they are gone permanently in every respect.
Our children have progressed through three stages but we are not yet at the final one. As they grew up, we were the adults they looked to in everything. We were the people they loved. Then in the first part of young adulthood, they still referred to us and our approval meant much to them. They often came home; it was still the fixed point they gravitated back to. Then they married and moved away and had children. Life became very different as the opportunities to return to mum and dad were few and far between.
So, how does it look now, from where I am standing, well into this phase of life? I didn’t realise that the transition from young adulthood to complete independence would be so painful, so gradual and inexorable. I find myself looking back on the first phase with wistful nostalgia….
Jenny Martin is a retired church minister
This is an extract from an article that was published in the July/August 2019 edition of Reform