Lately I have been scrolling through photos of the first day of school pictures for my two kiddos. Walking down memory lane holding their hands, seeing them bubble up with excitement and nerves, waving as they went off to school. Now I am steadying myself for a different launch. For the first time I will be waving goodbye to our two kids in college — a rising senior and a rising freshman.
As a working mom throughout the upbringing of both children, I wonder if I did enough? Was I home enough? When I was home, was I present enough? Did they know that I would drop everything to be there for them? And were they able to reconcile the events I missed because of my work schedule and know that my absence was not a reflection of the love I have for them?
When I shared these quiet and worry-ridden questions with my dear friend Bena Kallick, she offered another perspective on how I was framing the story of their childhood. That they saw their mom pursuing her dream. That they saw their mom openly talk with them about the struggles of work-life balance. That they knew when mom wasn’t there, they still felt secure in how much I loved them.
It’s one thing to hear a perspective from someone that you love and trust. It is another thing to believe it. So as I step back and consider how might I reframe my thinking about them venturing out of the nest, the habit of Responding with Wonderment and Awe popped into my head. How might I let go of living in past worries and track the wonder as they navigate their own journeys?
I’ve been reading a book by Jeffrey Davis called Tracking Wonder (2021) where he verifies that wonder is a skill that can be developed and encourages the use of a journal to track the six facets of wonder:
- Openness as I step back and view my children for who they are independent from me.
- Curiosity as I pursue new ideas, questions, and experiences without a destination in mind.
- Bewilderment as I learn how to feel waves of loneliness and uncertainty and be okay with not knowing what will happen next.
- Hope as I move into a new chapter of what it means to be a mom from afar with optimism.
- Connection as I take a more active listening stance to see how they are imagining their future and how they are thinking about challenges.
- Admiration as I see and am inspired by the talent, bravery, and heart of my two children.
So as I become an empty nester, I am learning how to recognize my tendencies to hold on or to live in the past and let it go with empathy and love.
Either that or I’ll pick up ax-throwing as a new hobby.