Check out my article coming out in the July 2022 NSPIRE!
By Tanya Uhrich
The past couple of months has gone by like a whirlwind full of anxiety, happiness, frustration, and above all excitement for the future. Change surrounds me at every turn suddenly and I have no idea how or what direction to take the first step. Everyone talks about the “empty nest” moment like it is a defining event in someone’s life. I assure you, it is but not necessarily in a good way.
Let me start at the beginning of my reasoning. In 2004 I brought home this amazing and cute baby boy who relied on me for every single thing. That is when change began for me. I was no longer the kid looking up to a parent, I WAS the parent. I was completely terrified I was going to mess up this perfect little boy I was blessed with. A million things run through your mind about exactly how you can fail your children. It is endless anxiety that I can tell you still hasn’t gone away for me. The funny part is family and friends surround you offering you so much advice on how to raise and care for them, but soon their encouragement quiets.
You become comfortable with your new journey in life and it passes by in the blink of an eye. Soon the feeling of change turns into what feels like accomplishments. Even now I can remember feeding my son baby food from a jar that smelled horrible but he loved it. He was eating vegetables and liked it! My first accomplishment! Seeing his first tooth, his first steps, first words, and even his first day of school. It was hard to see the accomplishments at first while just trying to get through an exhaustive day of being a parent and working with all the normal home life duties. But I never overlooked any moment because my mind has never let me forget. I consider it a blessing. It is true what people say, the good moments you can’t forget and the bad ones are easily forgotten.
Recently all these moments finally made me stop and finally understand why change is so scary. A couple of weeks ago I sat at Bluffs Middle School Stadium on a cold and very windy Sunday afternoon and watched my son walk across the stage and receive his diploma with his classmates. It was an overwhelming moment for both of us. The life we are comfortable with is changing. He is working toward joining the Air Force and starting a new adventure in his life and I couldn’t be happier for him. The part that still has me stuck in place is the fact that he is moving on without my daily parenting. (I am positive he is happy about this.) But what has me stuck is how as a parent do we step back and finally just let them go? It has been something I have wrestled with for months. Just seeing how tiny he was when we brought him home in his car seat less than two days old to now watching him get in his car and drive away. When he was little I felt I had some control over his safety but now I have to step back and let him be in charge of it. How?? At least when he comes home every day I can turn my worry off knowing he is safe. Once he leaves I am not sure my worry will ever turn off again but I realize I have to let him become an adult and make smart decisions on his own. I know he will but part of me enjoys offering him the advice he did or didn’t ask for.
Suddenly all those people that had all that advice when he was young are not offering it anymore. They simply don’t have the answers. I finally started to understand it’s not because they don’t want to help. It’s because they just don’t know themselves. They still struggle with the reality of it as well. Not only are the kids moving on but us parents are too. Hence, a big part of why I feel stuck in place. It feels like graduation for parents as well. The world is almost as big and full of opportunities now as it did at our own high school graduation. The only difference is now we are ready for the world and have a general idea of what is important and what’s not. For instance, when we were younger we wanted to be out with our friends or eat whatever we wanted. Now I simply want a full eight hours of sleep and not eat something that will give me heartburn. So I guess in a weird way it is a good change for all of us. Our kids become adults whom we have to trust to make good decisions. We have to move forward adjusting to yet another new adventure in our lives as well. It is amazing how quiet your house becomes when they are not home.
So the stuck feeling comes down to my choice of trusting him and letting him go so I can take a step into my new change. It’s terrifying and not a choice that comes easily. When we were younger we had no fear of taking the step but as older adults, we tend to overthink it. I am really good at overthinking everything but this moment has by far been the hardest. All I can think is that my son is eager to start his new adventure in life and I don’t want to disappoint him by not starting mine as well. Change is the hardest thing anyone can do but it can be equally as rewarding. So why is it so hard? Time to stop overthinking it and just take a step in any direction and have faith in my son. I wish him all the luck in the world as well as every graduate stepping out into the new world but as parents, we plan to still drive you crazy and call to make sure you brushed your teeth. It’s what we do. To all the new empty-nester parents like myself, take a step into a new adventure and know you raised amazing kids. We should be proud of that.
The last thing, I would like to thank the Scottsbluff High School JROTC program from the bottom of my heart. From the minute my son joined your program his freshmen year I noticed a change in him. He became this young man that started caring about his grades, about others, and his future. He was finally engaged in a school activity that he looked forward to. This program gave him the courage to take a step toward changing himself into an amazing young man. You should all be incredibly proud of the opportunity you are providing for our kids. Thank you!
If you have a comment or topic suggestion you would like me to explore please email me at uhricht@gmail.