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Filling Your Nest

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Two birds in nest

Shortly after saying a tearful goodbye to our daughter on a campus far away, her older brother decided to join my husband and me for a few days of golf, paddle boarding, and relaxing at our cabin in the mountains.

As parents, these are the moments we breathe into with gratitude—when time blesses our hearts.

Soon he will be headed off to school as well, but thankfully at a college less than an hour away. He is close enough to golf 9-holes with us in an afternoon, then grab a bite together, and still make it back to campus in time to hang with his friends for the evening.

As our adult children spread their wings, many parents, like us, are finding unique ways to stay connected with their kids.

Our oldest son, who has autism, has chosen to continue to live with us, and we feel truly blessed. We’ve turned the upstairs into “his apartment.” When we are all home, he comes downstairs to tells us “he loves us,” and heads back up to his sanctuary. Fortunately, he’s very independent and loves his daily routine of work and activities, which keeps him fulfilled and engaged.

I saved the best of our ‘𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘵𝘺 𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘵’ for last—my husband.

We. Are. Still. Here. Together.

We built this nest, and we are looking at this next phase as an exciting opportunity—rather than an empty one. We have been intentional about what we would like the next few years to look like, and are excited to experience this new chapter as it unfolds.

We are looking forward to more spontaneous outings, dinner with friends, and a renewed intimacy. We also know, just as we become accustomed to living with two fewer bodies in the house, the holidays will be upon us, and we’ll all be together again.

And isn’t that what is really important? It doesn’t matter if we are all ‘home’ in the same nest or not. We are a family because of our love for each other and because we choose to stay connected no matter where we all live. And that is the kind of nest that will never be empty.

Sydnei Kaplan, author /Photo by Nina Uhlíková from Pexels

As a mom of two college kids, I have a birds-eye view of this blessed journey we call Motherhood. It touches each mom in unique ways. 

Some may feel profoundly altered as if they were shaken up and settling back into place in a brand new way. Others have described this transition as a rebirth. Many have been stunned by the complete shift in focus from self-to-others. 

The possibilities are endless, but none of us emerge unaffected, and the changes continue throughout this incredible journey. 

Motherhood’s effect on me was and still is, very powerful. It has been life-changing in the best ways. 

From my vantage point, with many years and priceless memories tucked in my heart, I know with a comforting certainty that Motherhood is forever – it doesn’t stop at a certain age or stage. 

It evolves and grows with us. 

Facing the “growing up” of my children forced me to look deep within myself. To explore the next steps on my path.

We had waited some years after we were married to become parents. Those years were filled with work, friends, travel, and lots of “just us” time (which I loved). This was joyful, and it was comfortable. I also thought I loved my job, but in hindsight, I realize I mostly loved the people. It was comfortable. I liked my work (marketing and writing) but never fully felt it was my calling. 

Sydnei and family

Even though I had beautiful friendships and a loving marriage, there was a sense of insecurity deep within me that had followed me from my teen years. I’m guessing some of you know what I mean. You can be a happy, confident person but still have doubts within you that affect how you live your life.

Motherhood changed that for me. It was, and continues to be, healing in the most perfect of ways. It didn’t happen in any particular moment, like when I first held Mia or when Ben made me the mom of two. There wasn’t a specific accomplishment that made me say “aha” – like when I traveled home on a plane from our first family vacation, without my husband, and with 3-year-old Mia and not-yet-1 Ben. 

This healing – finding myself – has been a journey. It’s been a compilation of the many moments of being a mama. 

Sydnei enjoying life as it comes

More importantly, I began seeing myself in a refreshing new light. Really it was more of a subtle feeling—yet so empowering. I noticed myself feeling less dependent on others to feel happy, capable, or complete.

Through my children, I began sensing not only what I had to offer but who I truly was. 

Some steps were effortless, like starting to work in a preschool—nurturing and supporting the blossoming of little ones had always come naturally to me. 

Other pursuits, like venturing into the world of Motherhood writing, took a little more nudging. My family participated in this “nudging” in various ways — offering encouragement, sharing other’s blogs as examples to inspire me, and just continuing to be who they are and reminding me of the exquisite blessing that Motherhood is. 

So here I am, always a work in progress—feeling a renewed sense of excitement and purpose. Not only from writing, but also from the exceptional people who have come into my life because of it. 

It’s never too late to discover YOUR other passions. You will always be Mom, but there’s a world of possibility waiting for you to shine your own special light. 

Couple golfing

4 Minute Read

Even though most experts would agree it’s more of a mental game than a physical one, it was painfully obvious I was going to need a lot of practice. So, when I casually mentioned to my husband I was going to hit golf balls, I wasn’t expecting his reaction.

He was ecstatic! “Wow, I’ve just never heard you say that…what prompted this?”

“Well, it’s I Do Part Two yeah know,” I laughed in response. This phrase has become our mantra ever since I started trying to figure out why some couples thrive after decades of marriage and why others quietly grow apart.

I always wonder, what happened? Could it happen to us too?

To his credit, my husband, Phil, has asked me countless times to play golf over the last thirty years—yes, 3-0! But, I rarely found the time.

I don’t hate golf, but if a genie granted me four kid-free hours when the kids were little, I would not have chosen to spend them trying to hit a tiny white ball into a little round hole. Regrettably, I never considered playing golf with my husband as an opportunity to simply enjoy time together.

For us, although we haven’t golfed much, but we still enjoy each other’s company. We do projects around the house, we take the kids on fun outings, and we eat dinner as a family almost every night. Plus, Phil’s had carte blanche to play golf with his friends, so why is it so important that we play together?

As we talked about it one evening, my husband, Phil, recalled how before kids we used to ski in the winter almost every weekend, and he loved that I was always up for trying to beat him on the tennis court. “It was one of your most endearing qualities,” he said, before hesitantly adding, “You used to be game for anything.”

When had I stopped being game for anything?

I always assumed it was fairly normal to have completely separate interests until I started reading about the importance of “recreational companionship” in Dr. Willard F. Harley’s book, His Needs Her Needs.

Dr. Harley stresses my assumption is true… but only to a point. He asserts, “Men typically place a surprisingly high importance on recreational companionship, second only to sex for the typical husband.”

The doctor’s words wouldn’t have cut so deep if Phil and I had at least one activity we regularly pursued together; but sadly, we did not.

I’d never even heard the term “recreational companionship,” let alone understood it was important to my husband. How had I missed this?

For years, my husband’s said we need to find activities we enjoy so when the kids move out, we have fun things to do together. I often laughed when he said it, but as our youngest gets closer to leaving for college, his words carry more urgency.

Sure we travel together and enjoy an occasional date night. We even Netflix and chill, but apparently this “isn’t enough to sustain most couples,” according to the book, “especially if either spouse has additional needs that are not being met.”

When we were dating, I jumped at any chance to spend time with him. We’d take road trips, ski and attend all sorts of sporting events at a moments notice. Once we married, I guess I didn’t feel like I needed to as much. Somewhere along the way, our careers, our house and eventually our kids all vied for my attention.

Spoiler Alert:  I was shocked to read (and I paraphrase Dr, Harley), that not having activities couples frequently enjoy together is one of the most common reasons for divorce, regardless of how long a couple has been married. (Yikes!) It’s typically one of the root causes that can be traced to other, more obvious issues that have crept into the relationship over the years.

We all know those couples that seem fine and even look happy together, but then all of a sudden they’re getting divorced. What? But you two just posted beautiful, Instagram-worthy pictures together!

Eventually you hear, “they just grew apart” or “they don’t have anything in common anymore.” I’m not immune to realizing if it can happen to them, it can happen to us.

So, now what? I’m taking golf lessons and trying to play golf more often, that’s what!

I can finally play 9-holes of golf without sounding like a little kid in the backseat whining, “Are we there yet?”

We’ve also created a list of activities we’d like to try, and Phil says he’s game for hiking the nature trails I’ve been talking about exploring for years. Who knows, maybe we’ll even try skydiving.

It’s become an adventure just trying to find new things we both enjoy—together. Because at the end of the day, we all know, foreplay is the most important part of the game anyway.

Who is your favorite recreational companion?

Epilogue: I am happy to report that since this article was first published a year ago, we have added a few more fun activities we like to do together and with other couples…we skied Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Sun Valley, Idaho last winter, started paddle boarding and kayaking this summer, and finally tackled a few hiking trails. Cheers to finding your own fun activities to do together!

If you’re interested in learning more about recreational compatibility, Dr. Harley offers a free Recreational Enjoyment Inventory at www.marriagebuilders.comIt covers hundreds of activities from stamp collecting to skydiving.

*I Do Part Two does not have a direct affiliation with Dr. Willard F. Harley or marriagebuilder.com.  For more information, see the Disclaimer statement at www.idoparttwo.com

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