Ali Flynn Ali lives in New York with her four teenage daughters and husband. She is excited to share with you the joys and hardships of motherhood with an open heart, laughter, and some tears. Ali is a monthly guest contributor for Westchester County Moms and has been seen on Filter Free Parents, Grown and Flown, Today Parents, Love What Matters, and Her View From Home. You can also find her at hang.in.there.mama with Ali Flynn on both Facebook and Instagram where she keeps motherhood real.
A few weeks ago, we took our youngest child to college. I confess I started counting down the weeks to that moment even as the summer days appeared endless.
This transitional season brought with it plenty of questions and grief for me. While I knew my son’s new place of residence was where God wanted him, I wasn’t ready to let him go. It meant recognizing the end of a parenting season, a change in our relationship, and a noticeable absence in our home. However, I clung to my long-held faith that he is God’s child first. Releasing him for God’s purposes is part of parenting.
So on move-in day, we drove those three and a half hours to a city with which our family is not familiar. It is nowhere near either my husband’s or my hometown. No relatives live there. It is a small town and agricultural and we are used to the city and suburbia. Three and a half hours felt like a way longer trip into foreign territory.
After moving him into his huge dorm in the middle of unfamiliar land and saying our goodbyes, we made the trek back home. Understandably, the sobbing commenced as I made a beeline for the car. The ride home felt just as long as the ride there.
As the flood of both emotions and tears continued, I wondered. Why did this trip feel so long when my own hometown is about the same distance? My oldest son goes to school there but it does not feel so far. How does releasing your child in an unfamiliar place equally far away feel so different?
I think of all the parents around the world releasing their kids at various times for God’s purposes. Some of those places are way farther than three and a half hours. I remember the mothers in scripture who did so not knowing how deep in their souls that separation would later feel. Their narratives have been lifted up by me as inspirational. But now I sit with them. I feel their conflicting emotions more than I could have expected.
Leaving our kids in a foreign place feels counter instinctual.
Our whole lives we sought to straddle the line of protection and empowerment. Of course, we know that it will all come to fruition at that moment far down on the horizon. And then we realize it has arrived. All that we believe about God, provision, protection, and purposes looms in front of us.
Those goodbye hugs symbolize all that we have known all along. There is a time to hold tightly and a time to let go. Releasing from the embrace, I watch him walk towards his home. And my husband and I go towards ours. In all of it, I know that it’s where we are all supposed to be.
Stephanie J. Thompson is an ordained pastor, speaker, writer, and mental health advocate. She is a member of the Redbud Writers’ Guild, and her pieces have appeared on various sites including The Redbud Post, Her View From Home, The Mighty, and Perennial Gen. Stephanie resides in the south suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three young adult children. A few of her favorite things include beaches, historical fiction, and iced coffee. When all three line up, she is in her happy place.
A mother’s love letter to her son and daughter-in-law on their wedding day—
“I love you, mom.”
(A little louder) “I love you, mom.”
“I love you too, honey, so very much.”
I’d been deep in thought, listening to the song we were slowly dancing to.
I knew this mother/son moment of ours was supposed to be the time to say all the things, but this boy and I had already said all the things, so the lyrics to the melody played in our ears:
Hold the door say please say thank you Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie I know you got mountains to climb but…
𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙
When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you When the work you put in is realized Let yourself feel the pride but…
𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙
As we moved from side to side, I felt in a dream and took in everything my senses could hold: the supportive, joyful faces looking on; the army of twinkling lights decorated throughout, reflected in the antique mirrors on the opposite wall; the warmth of his strong arms as we held each other.
I recall Spring Break of 2017. We traveled down to warmer weather and spent time with Brett, who, at the time, was living and working in Orlando.
He had recently been out with Abby, another student he knew in college when they were part of the same circle.
She had visited Florida, also, and messaged him, just two friends reconnecting, and they went out to eat together before she headed back to the midwest.
When he and I sat on the beach in St. Petersburg about a week afterward, I asked him to tell me all about their time.
He lit up, told me a bit, and then said, “I don’t know, I just have a really good feeling.” Because of his words, I did too.
When we met Abby that summer, I immediately saw the qualities that Brett had used to describe her: kind, thoughtful, playful, smart, beautiful.
Brett fell for her fast, and so did we.
Brett’s gut instinct was right.
Our daughter-in-law, Abby, gives us all good feelings because she’s funny, sincere, creative, empathetic, hard-working, faith-filled, and full of love.
She has a special tenderness for dogs of every type, and she gives the best hugs! Unfortunately, she and I have experienced similar past heartache.
Like myself, Abby lost a parent to cancer at the time of her high school graduation.
We talked often about those profound losses in the early days of getting to know one another.
Abby’s grief was close to the surface, as it’d been six years since her mom passed away at the time we met.
With over three decades out from losing my dad, I could express to her that the pain lessened a little more each year, although, never completely.
I suspect Abby was an old soul even before her mom went to heaven, but that event, and her awareness that life is fragile and precious, make her even more so today.
She’s the perfect match for Brett: the match we’ve prayed for since he was little.
As hard as it is watching our children grow up and leave the nest, there’s nothing better than seeing them start their own family, by marrying the one God had planned for them since the beginning of time.
The night of the wedding, when Brett and I were finishing our dance, the end verses struck me.
Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around And help the next one in line.
𝘼𝙡𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙮 𝙝𝙪𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙙
For many long years, to get where I was going, was to plead with God to give Craig and I strength and wisdom to raise our kids up right.
Now that they’re all but grown, I don’t take one second of it for granted.
I think of the generations that have gone ahead of us: their words of encouragement, their silent and spoken prayers, their admonitions and stories, their smiles and reassurances; extended from those who walked before and then alongside, getting us to this place.
Craig and I plan to assist, pray for, tell stories and jokes, and be there – please God be willing – in any way our children want or need in the years to come.
With a heart of gratitude, I thank the Lord for the blessing they’ve been to us, and for every single treasured, unique member that makes the love in our family vast and abundant.
Debbie Prather is a Christ-follower, wife, mother, and freelance writer. She and her husband celebrated thirty years of marriage in February 2020. Debbie is a bible study leader, community volunteer, and loves to connect heart-to-heart with those God places in front of her. She and her husband, Craig, adore their growing family, they’ve gained two daughters-in-law in the past two years, and Debbie shares her reflections on faith, grief, adoption, parenting, marriage, and injustice at https://742iloveyou.com/.
“I want you to listen, really listen to me.”—I want to be heard.
“You shouldn’t feel that way.”—I want to be validated.
“You never support me in front of your friends”—I want to be protected.
One of the most common messages we receive at I Do Part Two is the desire to feel validated.If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Validation is one of the most important tools of communication in marriage. It allows you to support your spouse, even when you disagree.
A good example of validating your spouse’s feelings would be to put away your device when they’re talking—listen to understand what they are saying from their point-of-view.
A friend was sharing with her husband about a disagreement she had with a co-worker and he replied, “What did you do to set her off?” This would be an example of not validating your partner’s feelings.
Our feelings are like a personal alert system—they aren’t right or wrong. They reflect our thoughts, experiences, and perceptions. They help us to understand how we are feeling about a conversation or an interaction with our partner. The Gottman Institute, a highly regarded licensed counseling group, points out that when our partner ignores or dismisses our feelings, “it is a form of relational trauma which, over time, harms the brain and nervous system.”
Where does this lack of empathy come from? For many of us, it’s just not in our natural wiring. And it may go way back—possible before our earliest tangible memory. As children, we may have also learned to not “talk back” to our elders, not to make too much noise, or not to bother anyone while they’re reading, cooking, or working on a project.
Maybe you watched as one parent berated the other parent or an older sibling, and the message formed loud and clear in your growing brain, “Don’t speak up, stay small, and by all means—don’t share your feelings.”
How would you know how to show empathy and validate others’ feelings if it was never modeled for you?
Awareness: Simply recognizing that this is an issue for you and acknowledging your willingness to work on it is the first step. Experts recommend individual and couples counseling, reading books on the topic, and working on listening to understand from your partner’s perspective. Also, I would add, let them know you love and care about them, and you do not want them to feel invalidated anymore.
The Gottman Institute recommends three steps toward healing: (but friends, this will take some time.)
Atone: Apologizing and asking for forgiveness is crucial; it is a practice that heals ourselves and others—again and again.
Attune: This means listening, perhaps for the very first time and seeing the situation “through their eyes.” When we are really listening for understanding, we’re able to share someone else’s story from their perspective.
Attachment: If your partner is there for you and has your back, you will feel secure in your attachment to them. The closeness creates a deeper bond where trust and commitment can flourish.
The Gottman Institute (and I paraphrase), recommends committing to repeatedly working to Atone, Attune and Attach on an ongoing basis. In other words:
Apologize when you are in the wrong
Listen to your partner and understand from their point-of-view
Validate your partner’s concerns, they will feel more secure.
If this story resonated with you, it’s either because you have felt “unheard” or realize you have some work to do. Friends, it’s never too late to work on your relationship skills and say you are sorry. Learning how to empathize and validate another’s feelings is probably one of the most powerful relationship skills most of us were never taught. By Lisa Reinhart-Speers
*Please note: Where a licensed expert is not credited, I share from my own experience gained from 28 years of marriage, reading loads of marriage articles and books, and working with numerous licensed marriage counselors myself over the years—much of which was sought pro-actively with my husband, so we could learn new skills as we hit road bumps or new phases in life, like empty-nesting. It is a never-ending process but well worth it—By Lisa Reinhart-Speers @I Do Part Two
Lisa considers herself a “writer-in-progress.” As creator of I Do Part Two, she hopes the site will be the conduit through which others feel compelled to share their story. She resides in Oregon, and recently recommitted to her husband and best friend for the 29th year; together they have 3 growing children who still live full or part-time in their nest. Lisa also contributes to Her View From Home and of course, her own website I Do Part Two.
“The job did come with a strange disclaimer which escaped my notice at the time.” -Alison Swan
The interview for my dream job couldn’t have gone better! I was a young 25 years old and had envisioned this moment a dozen times. It was the position of a lifetime. I knew as soon as the offer came, I had been entrusted with a tremendous responsibility.
In some cases, I would be expected to use personal funds for travel and other work-related necessities. The firm couldn’t provide training, but I was welcome to seek assistance from more seasoned partners.
The hours would be long, the starting pay minimal, and the schedule demanding. Yet I recognized the experience’s value would far exceed the firm’s ability to compensate.
The job did come with a strange disclaimer that escaped my notice at the time: “Other industries may fail to recognize the transferability of your acquired skills.”
These minor detractions did nothing to diminish my interest in the position, and I immediately accepted the job. After which, I was forced to endure a 9-month probationary period of waiting. During this period, I was permitted to decorate my office and wait. To this day, I am perplexed by the waiting.
After the waiting period was complete, I was immediately thrown into the most demanding sector of the position.
For the first three months, I was allowed less than 3-4 hours of sleep per night. Arriving each morning extremely exhausted had me wondering if my blurry-eyed negligence might result in a co-worker’s fatality. Thankfully there were no deaths to report.
You would think I might have quit from the stress of it all, but actually, I became quite good at juggling the requirements. Soon, what had been stressful became an enjoyable conglomerate of challenges to overcome.
The best part of the juggling act was that no two days were the same. On a Monday, efficiency might be the best plan to achieve desired results. On a Wednesday, deep wells of patience might be needed.
Those early years flew by—I was promoted and admired. (Well, not usually admired outwardly, but I understood, my co-workers were quite young.) The 22-year mark passed, and it felt good to know I had tenure—nothing to worry about when it came to job security with this position in the bag.
What I am about to share next will come as a great surprise, as it did me…
I still have difficulty wrapping my mind around how it all unraveled. I was called into the head office one afternoon and told my expertise would no longer be needed. My position was being outsourced.
I was welcome to retain my title, but every project I had worked on would be dismantled. My responsibilities outsourced to large academic institutions, and my office cleaned out.
Years have passed since the day my position was eliminated. On most days, I hold such gratitude for the opportunity to have been offered the career of a lifetime.
Once in a while, the memory of a position I loved so deeply leaves me wishing for what once was. In all honesty, my title became a significant part of my identity.
It was a full and purposeful career to have raised our three beautiful and deserving children, now 25, 22, and 20. The role I accepted as a naive 25-year-old rookie resulted in greater fulfillment than I could have imagined and a lifetime of friendships with our young adults.
An Afterword: In recent weeks, the firm asked me to return for minimal hours as a consultant—I was thrilled to be asked. Although the hours of work are greatly diminished and usually remote, it continues to be my greatest passion.
Alison Swan is an Oregon native and lover of the mountains, skiing, hiking, tennis, and sunshine. Alison and her husband have three young adult children. She is most passionate about deepening her friendships with her husband and grown children, Jesus, mental health awareness, and encouraging women with hope and connection. You can find Alison at WhereWomenWalk on Instagram.