Thirty-two and a half years ago, my husband and I started our family. The birth of our eldest son, Josh, became the first of many family milestones. Within a span of ten and a half years, three additional sons were born. Each child created a unique set of special occasions. Some of these events were captured on film while others are delightful memories that remain housed in our brains.
Our trailblazing son, Josh, always led the way since he was the oldest. He set the pace for the other boys to follow. Whatever he experienced was always a “first.” He never had to play “second fiddle” to any of his siblings. His brothers consider him lucky since he never had to wear hand-me-down clothing. Some of his clothing choices were not fully appreciated by the others. Multicolored shorts and over-sized shirts immediately come to mind. Josh, on the other hand, felt that his brothers had the advantage since Ira and I became more flexible as the years went by.
Parenting the eldest requires a certain amount of finesse. The oldest child, at times, takes on the role of a science experiment that has no previous data. With no foolproof guide for parenting, Josh became our trial run. However, we soon learned that what worked with him might not work for Adam, Aaron or Jordan. Learning to adapt to each child’s uniqueness became essential.
We marked their milestones with hearty celebrations. We knew that family milestones needed to be cherished and remembered. Time indeed passes quickly. Thousands of pictures capture these wonderful moments. I am grateful that we experienced so many joyous family occasions and share amazing memories.
One-by-one, our sons left the security of our home and ventured off to college. As each one said good-bye, I knew that my years as an empty nester were drawing closer. Some mothers count the day until they are “free.” I, on the other hand, was reluctant to let go. I had invested so much of my time into being a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to cherish each moment while at the same time not hovering too close.
As the college years unfolded, I stood on the sidelines and watched with amazement as my sons matured into responsible men. They had taken heed of most of our advice and were taking initiative for their futures. All had worked part-time during college and had successfully secured full-time positions before graduation.
Yesterday, our youngest son, Jordan, graduated from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder. While I always anticipated that all of my sons would be college graduates, the graduation ceremony caused me to become teary eyed. My feelings matched the stormy weather that plagued Boulder.
As I sat listening to the long drawn out Business School ceremony (2 1/2 hours) at the Coors Event Center, images of Jordan’s childhood raced nonstop through my brain. Once again, I wanted to hold tight to those special memories. This ritual of a college graduation was ushering in a new chapter of his life as well as ours. I wasn’t sure I was ready to move on.
This occasion marked the end of having dependent children. With diploma in hand, Jordan will enter the business world just like his older brothers. The excitement of starting a career at Deloitte will send him forward. We feel confident that he will be able to handle whatever obstacles he will face along the way. He is ready to pursue his post college dreams.
Being an Empty Nester
While the transition period to being an empty nester started years ago when Jordan started college, upon graduation the process now becomes complete. All of my sons will be financially independent. Does that distinction change our family dynamic?
Whenever any of our children entered college, I considered them independent even though we were still financially responsible. Now that all of our sons will be self-supporting, our financial obligations will cease. Hurray. After 15 years, we will not have to fund any college tuition payments or assorted living costs. This is a welcomed financial relief.
This transition will cause our family relationship to modify slightly. It is part of the natural process of parents losing priority status in their children’s lives. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers require round-the-clock attention. School-aged children take the first steps toward gaining independence. College students are on the verge of becoming pros. Graduates have the wherewithal to become financially as well as emotionally independent.
Our adult children have the breathing room to experience life on their own terms. We can continue to offer advice, but now all of their decisions must be their own. Like toddlers, they will at times stumble and fall. After years of practice, they have learned how to pick themselves up, assess the damage, and learn from their mistakes. The next chapter of our lives will enable us to see the fruits of our parenting.
While my initial reaction to this family milestone was mixed, a warm glow filled my body by the next day. My watery eyes were replaced by a lighthearted mood and an enormous smile. I breathed deeply as I looked out our window at the bright blue sky. Graduating college is a family milestone that adds another link to a long chain of events. Each link binds our family together. We can look back upon yesterday’s graduation as a wonderful day when we celebrated Jordan’s accomplishments and then look forward to other family occasions.