From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Preparing for Empty Nest
Parenting, like the rest of life, often seems to require an endless set of skills
and abilities. From the time of conception, parents must learn how to protect, feed and
care for their young. During their earlier years, we must hold our children close to us,
and provide them with safe shelter from the world. However, as they grow, the task
changes, and we as parents must learn the difficult and delicate art of "letting go".
When preparing our children for a successful launch into the world, it is helpful
to select a frame of reference from which to gather a few words of wisdom. For this,
I suggest we take a look at the time-honored sport of bowling. Lets consider
some basic ideas.
- The world is full of boundaries which must be respected.. Bowling alleys have many lanes, but to accumulate points, we must correctly identify which lane to use before rolling the ball. To avoid collisions with others, we must use only one lane at a time, learn to take turns, and exercise rules of good sportsmanship. As parents, it is our job to counsel our children (now young adults) to enter the greater world with respect for the boundaries of others.
- Personal goals are important. Once bowlers have identified their lanes, they can begin to concentrate on the game. Some people bowl fast, others bowl more slowly. It is not the speed of the ball, however, that wins the game. Success is measured by accuracy and thoroughness in accomplishing ones goals. Like bowlers, each of us must develop our own strategy for success within the rules of the game.
Trust that the ball will come back to you. Bowling is a very forgiving game in that it always returns the ball to you. Sometimes the ball is returned quickly; at other times, it may seem to take forever. Similarly, when a child is away for a weekend, the summer, or off to college, the time may fly by or seem to drag. As parents, we must learn to enjoy life both with and without our children.
- Successful "letting go" is all in the release. When bowling, if you let go of the ball too soon, it is likely to go nowhere, or worse, it may land on your foot. On the other hand, holding onto the ball for too long results in a late release and an unpredictable landing. Similarly, when getting ready to launch our children, we must be prepared to let them go at the right time, lest they go nowhere, land with "thud", or end up in the gutter. The reality is that it takes courage for children to leave home and it is our job to coach them and encourage them through the experience.
Every game has a cost and a value. One of the secrets of becoming a good bowler is to practice. The more we bowl, the more skilled we become, but of course, every game costs money. While it is possible to meet with beginners luck, it would probably be unwise to rely on beginners luck for an important tournament. Similarly, kids must learn how to leave home, get used to being on their own, and parents must learn how to cope with being on their own in an empty nest. So, while it is certainly costly when our children travel, attend summer camps, and participate in other events away from the family, these experiences can offer some much-needed rehearsal for a successful launch later on in life.
Our children are small for a very short period of time. Almost as soon as we get
used to them, we have to let them go. When our children are young, we take care of them.
When we are old, we hope they will take care of us. In between, we take turns getting
knocked down and being picked up. Anybody want to go bowling?
ęCopyright, 2000, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
Return to Family Relationships
Return to: Love and Marriage
Return to Table of Contents