As a single mother, or being any parent for that matter, parenting may feel like it’s ended once your children are grown. I crashed and burned during my empty nest season a few years ago when my only daughter married and moved halfway around the world and my only son graduated high school and moved into a dorm at college the same year. It took me a minute to adjust to feeling as if I was no longer needed.
My kids were my life. At times the two of them were my reason for living, literally! They saved me more times than I’d like to admit when I wanted to just give up to escape my pain. They kept me sane, alive and full of promise and purpose.
The year they both were suddenly gone, I found myself lost and empty. I didn’t realize that they may not be in my home, but they still needed their mother, maybe not as much as I needed them but nonetheless.
Although my son is back home and my daughter and granddaughter are a 4-hour drive away, I still find myself worrying. Maybe more now because their decisions no longer hinge on what I think is right or wrong. They both have made me proud and are kind, loving, respectable young adults. They’ve always made good choices. But we live in a dangerous time which feels like it could mirror what it must have been like to be black in America in the 60s.
I fear for my children lives with more reason simply because of the color of their skin. My son, more than my daughter because he’s a young black man, not only in America but in the South. It’s sad as we remembered the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1969, I couldn’t help but realize just how close we have back trotted toward segregation, racial inequality, objectification, and the fearful panic of that era.
It’s important as parents of any race to raise children who do not see color even if color sees them. That is, children are not born with hatred and generational ignorance and biases toward other children. Hatred is taught. We have a moral obligation to the generations we will not live to see to mold young minds positively, teach love and not hate, teach about the way makers of our cultures (which remain absent from the textbooks) so our babies grow up knowing there’s nothing they can’t achieve.
Yes, I worry. But in a world separated by colorful divides, I taught my children to judge a person by their heart and not their skin color. It was said that I wasn’t preparing them for the real world, but evil doesn’t come in flavors. It’s all around us and sometimes in us. It never hurts to speak kindly to what may be allowing someone else to hurt inside. Smile, be respectful, love from a place deep within lit by God Himself. It’s made their lives better, easier and not any less aware of the hate that surrounds them.
One of the most important things to be as a parent to your child is their peace. Whether they are two or 62, they need to know that you are where they can come for safety. We can’t stop them from growing up and leaving the nest. We can equip them with everything they need to succeed and be there to catch them if they fall.
I’ve learned a lot from watching my mother, who at 75 years old, continues to be a parent, a safe haven, a teacher, a caregiver, a confident, and our peace. I’ve come to understand the two major keys that prevent her from becoming consumed with worry concerning her grown babies: One, prayer. She prays over all her children constantly even if she has to go in her war room and pray until something changes. Second, she tells me, “Remember YOU raised them. They learned that they can fly from you, so let them soar”.
So for my empty-nester readers out there, remember that you’ve done your job. Regardless of who your children decide to be, your roll sort of evolves from teacher to spectator, from judge to juror; you are still a part of their life. Be present. Be helpful when they ask you to be. But always respect that this is their life. And at those times when you want to help your adult children, but you can’t or it’s not your place, simply remember this…Their. Wings. Work!
If or when they need their peace, their safe place, they’ll fly home to you…