Milestones Empty Nest Lisa Valentine Blogs)

For us, June passed by in a flurry of birthday celebrations, with mountains of cake, buffets, picnics, brightly coloured paper decorations hanging from every possible fixture, and a hefty collection of cards dropping on the doormat, each containing little notes of love and well wishes from friends and family members.

One of those birthdays was Adam’s. We’d both booked a few days off work, and I surprised him with a trip to the zoo, a hotel stay, the best Mexican food we’ve had in ages (Cinco’s in Poulton le Fylde if you’re in the area), and chips by the seaside. If I’m honest, I know we’d rather have been lazing about in Barcelona instead of Blackpool, however, I was truly grateful for the chance to get away, to enjoy the sunshine, and step away from the humdrum of daily life for a little while.

Along with my nephew turning one, and Adam’s niece’s birthday the day before his, another cause for celebration was my eldest daughter, Megan, turning 21 that same week. Twenty bloody one, can you believe it? My child, my firstborn, being a proper bonafide adult human being. Lucie, my youngest, will also celebrate her next milestone birthday soon when she turns 18.

This got me thinking quite a lot about what might be next on my own timeline. My entire adult life to date has centered around being a parent. Those amateur early days, the worrying, weaning, lonely night feeds and overwhelming days, the first words, first steps, first boyfriends, first heartbreaks, losses, academic achievements, turbulent teens, the utter joy and pride in each milestone.

I know I’ll fundamentally always be their mum, regardless of how many birthdays are celebrated, but it’s pretty much a case of ‘job done’ these days. My clever, funny girls now have their own lives to pilot, including relationships, choices, responsibilities, and whatever else their futures bring along.

Once the, albeit knackered, operations manager of our little trio, my role is now more ally, cheerleader, and confidant. In all honestly, letting go is fucking terrifying; we grew up together, and I spent most of those 21 years shamelessly winging it. There are so many things I wish I could erase or edit, but you don’t get a do-over when it comes to parenting.

Whenever I looked for blogs and articles to help me work out the inevitable mixed feelings that arose, the ones around how to be a parent to adult children, most of them were filled with woe and sorrow. Harrowing tales of how ‘Empty Nesters’ had suddenly found themselves redundant, with no real purpose or focus in life once the babies left home.

From my personal perspective, and of course, I’m aware that this shit is extremely complex, I’m almost inclined to respectfully disagree with that narrative. I think children growing up is a cause for celebratory reflection.

Despite the hurdles, I know how privileged I am to have had the opportunity to raise a family. The only goals I ever really tried to set myself were to encourage my daughters to be kind, compassionate, and resilient people. They’ve exceeded that, and so much more. Do I agree with every single choice they make? Not always. Do I trust in them completely, in their own judgment, and ability to navigate their lives independently? Absolutely.

I hope they have the courage to take risks and test their own boundaries as life pushes us all forward. There’s an underlying nervous excitement about the vast possibilities of the future, the potential of what new milestones may lay ahead – for all of us.

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