When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.
Eight months ago we adopted a golden doodle puppy we named Wilson. We already had a lovely golden doodle, Clementine, but she only had eyes for me. We needed Wilson to be a depository of love for our teenagers, in particular our middle-schooler. Those of you who have raised middle-schoolers or are in the process of raising middle-schoolers will understand the desperation that results in adopting a high energy puppy.
Two of our kids have split the duties well – feeding, walking, training, sleeping. But there are times when parents have to step in as obligations rise and duties fall through the cracks. And today, the two Wilson caregivers returned to school. They were out the door early (for them after ten weeks of sleeping at odd hours) and the now ten month old full grown puppy is destructive if he misses his exercise bouts.
I took both dogs for a walk. The dutiful Clementine on my right and the rambunctious Wilson on my left – the training side. Back and forth we go, his relentless pulling met with a jerk and a tug, over and over and over again. And poor Clem, jerked and tugged in reaction. My body bearing the impact as we did this for a couple miles.
The process of training a fifty pound dog can be awful, but the results are well worth it when the puppy energy wanes and the loyalty to a master’s approval grows.
And tomorrow, we drop our oldest off at Metro State University in Denver for college. The relentless bouts of discipline and sleeplessness and jerking and tugging are in our rearview as we celebrate the young man he has become. But those early infant and toddler days were the dog days with no end in sight. The days of letting go and pulling back and resetting and overhauling. Relentless days bordering on hopelessness, redemption found in the fresh washed hair and the footy pajamas. And here we are, an almost nineteen year old emerging into the world embarking on the next chapter.
These are rough days for this mom. My body housed and enveloped his developing body. My home housed and enveloped his developing self. My community housed and enveloped his developing mind. Birthing and re-birthing life is a continual process that is now coming to an end in many ways. I know I will always be a parent and I will always care, I also know it’s time to retreat and release.
I am holding tight the verse in Luke 2:19: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
After the hoopla of birth, as shepherds and angels and farm life surrounded her precious child, Mary trusted. She knew her child would not be hers forever and she held him close, remembering, feeling, holding, surrendering.
The dog days are hard days. They feel relentless and overwhelming. But we can hold faith that God is working to redeem, making all things new. And I believe if let the dog days do their job we will find hope and birth in this most important work of surrender.
We are all in the cyclical process of birthing, re-birthing, growing, becoming. And as we all know – growth is hard. May we rest in being loved and desired as we live the lives we’ve been given to live.
Just as I trust Wilson will figure it out, I trust my children to live the lives they were born to live. I’m getting out of the way, one jerk and tug at a time.