Thanksgiving break is over for my youngest child. She will drive off into the sunset today, back to Freed-Hardeman University. She is enjoying her freshman year, and for that I am glad. My husband and I treasure the few moments when we see her these days. Parents who share the bittersweet times when the children leave the nest know what I mean.
It’s always a source of wonderment to me at this time of year to notice the empty nests in the branches of our dozen or so trees on our property. It’s a sort of forlorn feeling as I imagine the baby birds with their mouths wide open, waiting to be fed by Momma and Daddy birds. Where are they now? Did they make it? Do they ever see their siblings or their parents? When did they leave that nest? I remember with a smile the furtive way the adult birds would look around, worm in beak, right before they flew to that exact spot, nest unseen.
One thing is for certain now that the sheltering screen of leaves is gone, the nest is most definitely deserted. The one in my hedge up against the front porch sits half-skewed and a little broken on one side. Its bit of red string dangling off of it is reminiscent of Rahab’s signal to the Israelites. But no one remains in the nest to be rescued. The fates of my melodious little friends are sealed, for good or for ill, for their short lives. This little home has served its purpose. It will be put into the trash can after this gardener takes off the Christmas lights that now adorn the trees and shrubs.
Another thing that is certain is that the mother and father bird are no longer in the nest. In my fascination with the baby birds’ flights, I never contemplated before now that the parents also move on. They don’t sit in the nest pining for their young. They leave also. While their lives are not over, they are most definitely not stuck in the past, nor in those shabby old nests.
This newly realized fact must have some meaning in my life, now that I am a new empty-nester. I never did picture myself playing bingo or sitting in a rocker and pining for the good times gone by. There is so much to do! God has a new plan for me that does not necessarily involve child-rearing.
Our children’s births were spread out over an unusually long span of time, and that is probably why I can also see the value in the empty nest. This week has been wonderful having some of our children back in the nest for a little mothering! Conversely, I will also enjoy the peace of the coming solitude. The quietness is also sweet, after 34 years of children in the home. My husband and I get a little alone-time at last!
Isn’t it wonderful how our lives can have different phases, and that we can move to new good works time after time? I do miss my children, but I choose to embrace this stage in life.
“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me,” says the old song. Jesus highlights God’s knowledge of these little events in a sparrow’s life to illustrate God’s tender care for us (Matthew 10:29–31). Just as He never stops caring for us, we don’t ever want to stop serving Him and increasing our talents for service.
Mommy and Daddy birds have wings, too. Look, I’m flying!