On the edge of the nest

This parenting teens who’ve just flown the coop, or are about to fly the coop, or wishing they could fly the coop is the most challenging season of parenting, I’ve decided.  This evening after such a long weary day, I should go to bed.  But instead my heart pines for precious ones that I want to hug, to encourage, to love.  Most of them are just a room or two away, and yet in this moment the distance feels too great to span.

It was so easy when they were tiny. So easy to just scoop a sleeping child up after a long day and bring them into the rocking chair for a late-night snuggle.  Their soft selves would cradle into me not even wondering, not even skipping a breath.  They’d just settle in, where I could breathe into their hair and rock and rock, soothing both our souls, with me luxuriating in the deep down certainty that even thru the heavy weight of sleep they could feel my love.  That their dreams were sweet because they were in my arms.

These days  ‘our’ place tends to be the minivan.  Or the kitchen. I talk and advise, hug when they’ll let me, and cook and feed and shop and drive.  And pray.  And drive.  And drive some more. (Oh, they constantly want to go places.)

But the cozying in.  The loving-mom-back.  Less of that comes these days.  And tonight my momma-heart is missing the adoring baby-eyes, the feel of a little one running full-tilt into my body because he knows I’ll catch him, the slightly older one drawing and handing me love notes at odd moments in the day.  No, nothing was perfect back then either.   And I know those babies still lurk somewhere inside the bigger people who inhabit my world these days.  I recognize a look in the eyes now and then.

But on tough days my throat aches hard for that time when my big gangly teens had zero doubt I was on their side.  And wanted me there. *I* know I’m still there, cheering them on, dreaming good dreams and praying with fervor.  But teens don’t see it so clear some days.

A few weeks back my full-grown son came by for a visit.  He sat by me on the couch and after we’d talked awhile he laid his head on my shoulder and gave a big sigh and we just sat, being together. At that moment I wanted to never move again, it felt so sweet.  That he wanted to be there.  That he found me a comfort.  That he gained peace from my presence. Oh, the happy ache.

It’s easier for us, these days with him all grown.  He’s gained maturity, gotten past the fierce lonely ache of adolescence.  He’s not flailing to find his balance, like these younger ones seem to be. Something about that flailing, it seems, compels them to push me hard away.  As if they fear my very presence will inhibit their launch into the world.

I once heard that parenting a teen has something in common with a pendulum, that the teen years often find kids at the far end of that pendulum swing, nearly out of reach of the parent who is struggling hard to be the steady base.  But that’s the time not to lose heart, because the pendulum is going to swing back.  Give it time.

The other day after taking my gaggle of teens on a less-than-stellar shopping trip– the angst! the frustration! the see-through clothing! — I ran into the grocery store for fried chicken at the deli counter.  When the deli lady asked how my day was going, I laughingly  said something about the challenge of clothing shopping with teens.  She was a few years older than I am and nodded knowingly, listened kindly.  I had the feeling she saw right through my jokes to the honest pain. We continued to talk a minute or two. As she handed me my box of chicken she smiled kindly and said, “Don’t worry, momma, they’ll come back to you.”

And even as I thanked her, I felt the tears welling up and all of a sudden I remembered that pendulum.  I’m in the midst of the pushing-away stage with multiple ones of mine.  But I’m also blessedly experiencing the coming-back stage with others. Love notesThe son I ate lunch with yesterday.  The one with whom I had late-night chats several weeks ago.  The grown girls who bring our grandbabies for visits on the weekends.

And even with the kids in the midst of this pushing away stage, there are plenty of good times.  Shopping trips that end with actual clothing agreement.  Shared jokes and smiles.  Words of thanks for my endless chauffeuring. Lively discussions about movies. Much good.  And there’s also the 11 year old who plops herself on my lap for a snuggle this evening.  And the 9 year old who just yesterday wrote me a love note.

God is good to give me such balance in my life.  Such reason for hope each and every day.  And so I will keep on hoping and keep loving and keep on praying God’s very best for each of their lives.  Because I’m the momma and that’s what mommas do.  And I trust that God has good plans for each of their lives.


For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.   ~from Isaiah 44.





  1. Stephanie C says:

    Ok, you made me a sniffle a bit =) I am right there with you with one in his early years of college and another ready to graduate HS. It is hard, but the Lord is good.

  2. Colleen says:

    OMG I really needed to read this to once again be gently reminded that I am not walking this alone with my 15 year old daughter. That anyone raising a teenager is going through what we are. The pushing away is hurtful (I try not to take it personal) but this too shall pass.

  3. Thanks from me, too. We all need to be reminded that this is a natural part of parenting and doesn’t reflect that we’ve somehow done something wrong. And that we’re not alone. YOU are not alone! The other pendulum is the one of experimentation and testing limits; it seems they are trying to sense if we will still accept and love them through it as they figure out who they are as adults. I get tickled as my about-to-graduate son rolls his eyes at his college student sister’s antics…yet I know he’s about to begin the same journey! Thankful for a BIG GOD and learning to trust.

  4. Mary, beautifully written, beautifully lived! It is so encouraging hearing about your adult children–all that you wrote reminded me of all that is good and has been good. How easy it is to forget that when the in-your-face-hard moments demand our attention. Thank you! I will share this on our Hope at Home page.

  5. Kate in NY says:

    I became a mom in 1996, at the age of 26, and it was instantly – unquestionably – the most gratifying role of my life. Other moms complained of being bored, missing “their own identity,” etc. I never remember feeling that way – and the fact that my children were happy, agreeable, and generally well-behaved made me even more satisfied (and probably not a little smug). I even made it through my first teenage-rearing with very little drama or crisis. Now my 4 kids are 11, 15, 15 and 18. Those middle two – the “twins” (even though one is my biological daughter and the other my adopted son) – man, they are seriously undermining that parenting smugness. Some days I have to admit – parenting is not at all gratifying, and is, in fact, often just plain terrible. Fights, arguments, yelling – all normal teenage stuff, but just not any fun. Here I am at 45, envious of my friends who did pursue careers, because they still have validation of some kind that doesn’t rely on teenagers! Most of the time, I can feel grateful that our issues are not more serious, and find comfort in the fact that “this too shall pass” (just as it did with me – I was a pretty obnoxious teenager myself). And I have gone back to work part-time, and I pursue many non-parenting outlets that – surprise – are quite gratifying! But sometimes I do ache for those early days – so satisfying and joyful. I miss my babies, even as it is a pleasure to see them grow up.

  6. I read this aloud to Ron and had to stop a couple times with tears. What a heartfelt sharing and so beautifully written! What an amazing mom you are to each of your children, in their various stages of life. You are a blessing to me and to many.

  7. Mammamilk says:

    Oh the tears right now!! The years are flying with my five too, and I understand all you’re saying. Beautifully written.

  8. I love this, Mary!
    I do not have any teens yet, but I have many little ones, some days are hard, but what a reminder to cuddle them up A LOT at this age. My oldest is my boy who is 6 and he kisses me on both cheeks every night, I hope that continues even when he is a teen. And also all the good night hugs from the other littles!

  9. Oh! That made my eyes leak!! I know that what you say is true. I’m running off now to kiss and snuggle the littles.


  10. Well said. Life launching kids (two so far) was by far the most difficult thing I have done so far. The excitement, the angst, the relief mixed with the sorrow of days gone by….swinging along with you. Thanks for the word picture.

  11. Thanks for sharing. I don’t find many people writing about parenting teens and young adults and the transition or us as parents. I only have one friend who has “big kids” like me. I have a 21, 19 , and 17 year old as well as a younger one. Esch is in such a different stage of life. I miss the cozy homeschool days when we all did the same things together all day. I love who they are now, but do feel pulled in so many directions with the ever-changing kind of attention they each need. the older 2 have travelled some but are currently living at home, so we are working out that as things change with financial responsibility and family participation. I have also been struggling with worry a lot in the past few months– needing to let go and trust God in their lives.

  12. My three-year-old hopefully has years of snuggling with Mama and Daddy left to do. But, I did just hear of a great new book by Dan Siegel that you may want to check out.http://www.amazon.com/Brainstorm-Power-Purpose-Teenage-Brain/dp/1491513365/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396881194&sr=8-1&keywords=brainstorm. I’m ordering a copy to have old hold for the times to come.

  13. Cheri Hubbard says:

    You really captured this season in life. 🙂 God is using you to minister to hearts of parents on this journey.

  14. The teen period seems to me a lot like the “terrible two” period. As a toddler, they are learning how to do things by themselves, how to express themselves, and they test every boundary they can find to see what they can get away with and to verify you are still there for them no matter what. As a teen… ditto. In both cases, it is exhausting and frustrating but you just have to stand your ground and repeat, “This too shall pass” ad nauseum. At least, such has been my experience with my own child as well as those I’ve observed over the years. I like the pendulum image; that seems quite appropriate.