I received the following message last week from a reader in response to my post, When Strangers Count Our Kids and Ask If We’re Done and decided to share it here:
I am 45 with 10 children, my youngest is 2, and tears come to my eyes when I think that we might not be blessed with any more. I LOVE the idea of an empty nest list, the trouble is, I can’t imagine what kinds of things to put on it! Mind sharing?
Blessings to you!
I’m right there with you in the tears department, as you undoubtedly noticed at the end of that interview.
I actually wrote an article on my other blog, Loving Life at Home, several years ago about the sort of things I have on my empty nest list, which is ever expanding, incidentally! (I’ll reprint a portion of that original post at the end of this response, to give you a few ideas for starting an empty nest list of your own.)
I’m careful to balance that list with another I call my “Do It Now” list, which is full of all those joys and pleasures of my present life (such as cuddling littles and reading them picture books and listening to their stories) and serves as a reminder to enjoy them all fully while I still have the opportunity to do so.
The thinking is that by faithfully attending to my “Do It Now” list, I will have fewer regrets when it comes time to tackle the “Empty Nest” list. Remaining present in the present and regarding the future with hope rather than fear — I believe that is the key to contentment.
At this writing, four of our chicks have now fledged, and I realize with a wince that the others will soon follow. The fifth is perched on the edge of the nest even now and will have flown off for good by late spring.
It’s a bittersweet time for mama bird. I’m proud and excited to see them go, so full of promise and potential, yet I’m painfully aware that our home will never be the same without them.
It’s hard to let go, and I don’t anticipate the process getting any easier. So several years ago, I began to compile what I call my empty nest list.
Some of the items on the list are things I enjoyed in earlier seasons of my life and would like to revisit:
- backpacking Europe
- singing with the symphony
- teaching calculus
- painting porcelain
Some activities are things I’ve never tried but am intrigued by:
- glass blowing
- swing dancing
- mountain climbing
- scuba diving
Some are opportunities to minister in ways that my current responsibilities don’t allow:
- rocking babies in Russian orphanages
- counseling women through Crisis Pregnancy Centers
- feeding the hungry in Third World countries
- accompanying my husband on medical mission trips
Some entail expanding my skills in current areas of interest:
- writing and publishing prolifically
- memorizing large portions of scripture
- learning to play a few beloved classics on the piano
- becoming fluent in Spanish, German, French, and Chinese
Some involve traveling to places I’ve never been before:
- Costa Rica
- Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
- The Moon
My original list is impossibly long, with more on it than one could ever hope to squeeze into a single lifetime. Some of the ideas may lose their charm long before I have time to devote to them, but that is okay. It was never meant to be a bucket list of exploits to check off before I die.
Rather, it was intended to serve as a reminder that life doesn’t stop when your last child leaves the nest. All sorts of new and exciting possibilities await, even after this precious, fleeting season of child-rearing comes to its inevitable end.
In the wise words of Dr. Seuss, we “don’t cry because it’s over, [we] smile because it happened.”
And then we do the next thing. What will yours be?