This will be the fifth summer since my youngest flew the coop and I proclaimed myself an empty nester but last week I had the realization my empty nest hasn’t really been empty these past four years. A few weeks after moving my youngest out of our home, other young girls moved to town and sort of settled in my nest. They became my “other” girls.
I hugged one of the girls good-bye and I cried. As I watched her walk away and into her life in the real world, it hit me that my nest really was empty now. Even though one of girls is still in town, she’s married now and doesn’t need me as much. Another girl graduated and has a real job. Another girl hasn’t needed me for a few years and is getting ready to give birth to her own child. These little birds have spread their wings and are soaring just fine.
The high school graduation announcements are pouring in and I wonder if my friends are prepared for their baby birds to start leaving the nest.
When my youngest daughter was a senior, I was speaking at a Mom’s group on the topic of teaching your kids to help around the house. I looked at the list of age appropriate chores and tasks and I panicked. I had an 18 year old leaving my house soon and I didn’t think she could do most of the things on the list. I came home in a panic and told her she had nine months to learn ALL the things on the list. I told her she would have to plan a meal, shop for the meal and make the meal every week. What was I thinking? It was her busiest year of high school. Let’s just say that didn’t happen.
The year before, she watched as some of her friends left home and didn’t know how to change their sheets or wash their clothes. Other than cooking, my youngest was prepared enough to survive in the real world. That’s not to say we didn’t have some panicked phone calls and interesting Facetime calls.
So often as moms, we think we are helping our kids by doing all the things for them. I have often seen SAHMs do it to prove their value and working moms do it out of guilt. We don’t want to burden our kids. Well, guess what, if we send our kids out into the world and they aren’t adequately prepared, it can cause anxiety, fear, self-doubt and insecurity.
So, Mama and Papa Birds, what things do we need to teach our little birdies so they are ready to take on the world when they drive off from your home or you drop them off at college? Here’s a list of some of the things I have found helpful – not in order of importance – except I saved the most important one for last.
- Teach them to be responsible for their own grades or work. This starts young. Before my kids were out of elementary school I told them I wouldn’t be checking their “folders” and keeping track of their homework. I told them I already went to school and didn’t need to do it again. They knew if they didn’t make the grades they were capable of, there would be consequences.
I have professor friends who tell stories of parents emailing them to ask them to change a grade when the kid didn’t even turn the work in or show up for class. And they are mad at the professor and not their own child.
I am always available to offer advice and encouragement but school is their responsibility.
2.Teach them to clean up after themselves. Okay, I didn’t always hold the line on this one when it came to keeping their rooms clean and I wish I had been more consistent. It was a battle I fought but a war I never won. I did let them know their messy rooms weren’t acceptable and guests weren’t allowed to see them that way – not even their own guests. There were lots of late night room cleanings when they wanted to have friends over on the weekend.
I set the example. Bed made. Clothes picked up.
(Funny story – sort of) One day a friend’s kids were in my girls’ TV room and discovered 17 water and cola bottles under the couches. 17! They lined them up and couldn’t wait to show their mom when our meeting was over. I thought my girls were cleaning up after themselves but they were stashing them under the couch.)
Now my girls have their own places and keep them picked up and clean. So maybe the war has been won.
3. Teach them about money. Honestly, we didn’t do a very good job of that but are still working on it.
4.Teach them the basic chores. How to do the laundry, iron, scrub a toilet, clean a mirror, change their sheets (and, apparently, you need to tell them sheets need to be changed more than once a semester.) Teach them what bleach is for – and what it’s not for. Teach them how to sew on a button and hem their pants. And the list goes on.
5. Teach them about mail. You would think that would be an easy one but they don’t teach how to address envelopes in school. Teach them how to mail a package. Honestly, I have had to explain to a college girl (not mine) why she couldn’t return her rented college textbook at the US Post Office when it had a UPS return label on it. She had no idea there was a difference between UPS and the USPS.
6. Teach them to be kind and to serve others. There was a time when this wouldn’t need to be stated but our world is in such a sad state today, being kind and putting others needs over our own isn’t a given.
7. Teach them to love God and to have community with His people. When you send your children off into the big, bad world, if they have a foundation of faith and have seen God’s faithfulness, they will have a different filter to process the often confusing scenarios the world forces on them.
Direct your children onto the right path,
and when they are older, they will not leave it.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
If your child is graduating high school, you have about two months to cram “all the things” in. If your child is graduating pre-school, you have time – but not as much as you think. Trust me, I know.
Is your kid ready to face the real world? If your nest is already empty, what ways do you wish you had better prepared them? Comment and tell me.