Preparing to Leave the Nest

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Originally posted July 2008

I was out last week on a beautiful summer night at a local restaurant with three of my girlfriends for a long over due girls night out. Once all the ordering was taken care of, our conversations weaved in and out of various topics but landed right where they always do – our kids! Between, the four of us, we have 15 children ranging in age from 2 to 18! Yes, I alone have a third of those, but none-the-less, that’s a lot of mom stories to share.

My friend, Laura, has been a director of a Christian camp in our area for several years and we started to talk about college students and their expectations and the different trends Laura has observed over the last decade or so of working closely with young adults. She said that it has been amazing to her to see the lack of training that some of the kids have in terms of real life.

I told my friends what I did recently to begin the process of preparing my oldest to leave the nest. Nate is 18 and going to graduate from high school in December. We have three bedrooms in our home for five kids to divvy up. After getting some “expert” advice one day when Nate was in 7th grade, my husband Ron and I agreed to give him his own space. He had been sharing a room with his younger brother Luke.

So, we converted what was supposed to be our master closet into a make-shift bedroom and put one of the younger boys in there so that we could accommodate Nate’s need for individuality! That move made him very happy for five years because it meant he had the biggest room of all and all to himself.

That changed a few weeks ago. I got a call from a friend who had a set of bunk beds she wanted to pass on. I jumped on the opportunity since our bedrooms are small and these bunks had huge storage drawers on the bottom. In order to make the bunks work, they would have to go in Nate’s room since it had the longest wall and the other two bedrooms were too small.

That was when I capitalized on the opportunity to help Nate see that the expectation is for him to leave the nest. I told him the bunks had to go in his room and he had to move into Caleb and Adam’s room. I promised to get the dried boogers off the wall and to paint over the baby blue color in there.

Nate didn’t like the idea at all. He had his room all set up with XBox Live, a TV, and as he pointed to his nightstand, he said, “Besides, I have my alarm clock here, my Ipod charger there and my cell phone charger over there, NO, I’m not moving!”

That was a good argument but not good enough. I told him that he WAS moving and all of his “stuff” would move with him. He couldn’t tie up that prime piece of “real estate” for four more years while he is in college and leave his little brothers are all cramped up in a tiny 8′ x 10′ room!

He reluctantly agreed and proceeded to move his belongings.

Later in the week, Nate noticed that I had all the boys social security cards in a pile next to the phone except for his. He also noticed that his picture was down from the wall where I have all five boys 8″x10″ school pictures evenly spaced at an angle going up the stairs.

He asked me if I was trying to “erase” him? I moved his room, got rid of his picture and his social security card.

I assured him that his existence was safe with me and that his picture actually fell off the wall following a foot stomping door slamming hissy fit from his 9 year old brother and his photo was on my dresser waiting for me to find a new nail. Thankfully, the glass didn’t break.

The social security cards were gathered up because I was in the middle of switching bank accounts and Nate’s was in his room locked in his lock box so that’s why it wasn’t with the others.

No, I wasn’t trying to erase my son! I am, however, preparing him for life on his own.

My girlfriends listened to this story and one friend said, “You’re mean. Don’t you want them to have a place to call home?” (She still makes her kid’s peanut and butter sandwiches and he’s 17 – which is fine because she likes to do that. I am of the mindset that you give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats forever.)

My reply to her comment was, “That’s not mean. It’s a reasonable and responsible expectation of a grown-up person.” Nate will always have a home. He will always be our son, but he is no longer our baby. He will always be welcomed and loved and wanted. He will also be expected to make sacrifices and contributions. He will work, pay rent and make his own sandwiches.

Something tells me he will be just fine!

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