In Training for the Empty Nest

Mary Dell writes: Sitting on the sidelines, I have long been jealous of my husband. He coached our son in baseball and football, sports into which they both poured their high school energies. Our 16-year-old daughter is now in training for preseason soccer and I am finally sharing a sport – running – with my child. Since she will be off to college in two years, and we will have an empty nest, I am savoring these mother-daughter moments.

running with kids, training with your children, pre-season
Several times a week we drive to our high school track. After a little jogging and stretching, we sip from water bottles, our warm up now complete. I fumble with the earphones on my iPod while she races off, motivated by twin goals of a sub-seven minute mile and a spot on the varsity team. Waddling down the track, I admire my daughter’s athleticism and discipline. I can’t imagine what superhero capabilities the teenagers who compete at the Olympics are born with and perfect through their years of hard training.

The track is built around a football field and at times I can watch her running across from me, 100 yards of green space separating us. I follow her as she rounds a curve and disappears from my line of sight. She sometimes gives me a half wave as she speeds by. After she passes, I notice the rhythmic way her braided pony tail fans her back.

I go with her not only to get some exercise myself but also to act as guardian since it’s summertime and the track is usually deserted. While I never feared for my six-foot tall son when he worked out alone, I am reluctant to send her off, solo. Truth be told, I am a little reluctant to send her off at all. She is the baby of the family and when she leaves for college, my husband and I will remain at home in a house that will be so very quiet.

For now, I am in training with her as a runner. That is the official reason for our trips to the high school. My secret, unofficial reason is that I am training myself to accept how very grown up she is. We share the track and occasionally run alongside each other but I am neither pushing nor pulling her as I might have when she was a little girl, shy about joining the town soccer program. We are running our own, very independent, yet connected races. The training is good.

Comments

  1. Lisa Stapleton Weldon says:

    oh, you will cherish these moments forever. She will too. You must be a pretty cool mom. Most kids that age won’t be seen with their parent.

    • Grown and Flown says:

      I know I will look back on these sweaty summer trips to train fondly. Not sure about that coolness factor – more likely it is that I have a generous daughter.

  2. Your wonderful post made me want to suggest to my daughters that we go run together!

    • Grown and Flown says:

      I highly recommend it. Group motivation!

  3. Beautiful written. Really enjoyed this piece.

    • Grown and Flown says:

      Thank you for the kind words.

  4. Barb says:

    What a poignant metaphor for the letting go that is a natural act for an empty nest parent. Lovely.

    • Grown and Flown says:

      Your are so right to describe “letting go” as what we do as our children grow up and leave home. Thank you!

  5. Loved this! It’s important to keep evolving as our children grow in order to find healthy, appropriate ways to connect with them. Retweeting now!

    • Grown and Flown says:

      Lisa, so kind of you….having a sport to do with our children is a great way to connect.

  6. Sweet, beautiful post. How wise to cherish these last years with your daughter. My baby leaves for college next Friday, he’s a boy however. I homeschooled him all his life and know he’s ready to go and be the man God wants him to be, but that doesn’t mean I’ll miss him any less.

    • Grown and Flown says:

      Elizabeth, best of luck with your young son leaving for college. Of course you will miss him but you remain his mom, forever. Parenting never ends…

  7. Jena says:

    What a great post. I am looking forward to sharing more with my daughter now that she has moved out on her own. I think we will both have more to offer one another as we develop ourselves individually. I know that parenting was exceptionally draining for me and I get the sense from hearing from other parents that my daughter was especially “demanding” of me compared to her peers. As she leaves home I think we both feel drained from the experience. I think we both need some breathing space and will enjoy our time together so much more when we have it. We are already planning to do some things together – things that would not have happened when she lived at home. I hope that “the best is yet to come!”

    • Grown and Flown says:

      Fantastic that you plan to do some fun things with your daughter. My advice is don’t wait!

  8. Kyle says:

    You’ll treasure this time together but so will she.

  9. I just read this to my grown daughter, sitting beside me in a hotel room in NY City. We both think that you, and your girl, are wise to have found this special way to connect!

    • Grown and Flown says:

      Im’ thinking how nice it is for you and your daughter to be reading and traveling together. How fortunate for you.

  10. Great post! I can so relate to this! I have a 17-year-old son that moves out to college about this time next year, so I know that everything that happens from here on out is “the last time” we’ll do [fill in event here] with him still living at home. Although I’m not worried about him being out on his own (I agree about letting boys have more independence–sad, but true), it’s still bitter-sweet to have him move on to the next phase of his life, whatever that may hold. I’m happy to let him go, but at the same time I want to keep him close. I guess that the insanity of being a mom.

    • Grown and Flown says:

      How well put – “the insanity of being a mom.” Yes, happy to let them go but wanting to keep them close. We will always be their moms – that never changes.

  11. Empty Nester Coach says:

    You captured the essence of your relationship so well. Enjoy these moments to treasure later. It doesn’t hurt to start training to have a relationship with your husbands as well. It is a hard transition. I know it well. I am already a grandmother, and totally not responsible for them. It is a hard boundry to draw. We are here if they need us. In the meantime I get to enjoy the grandchildren. Life is a journey, start training and enjoying.

    • Grown and Flown says:

      All wonderful advice – thank you so very much!

  12. Flawed Mommy says:

    My sons are 17 & 14 years old, and I hear so many of their friends parent’s express their concern over not having “good” relationships with their teenagers. Hearing these remarks from other parents has made me evaluate my relationship with my own boys. I have learned that by listening, and I mean really listening, I learned about those things that interest them. For my boys, it’s things like cars, football, and wrestling. At one time I knew nothing about those things, but whenever they would talk about them I would ask questions. It seemed like the more questions I asked, the more excited and animated they bacame. Soon they were asking me to browse the internet with them to look at engines, or watch a football play on you tube, and even going to the gym with my son as he trained for wrestling. If you want a good relationship with your children, you have to become involved in those things they love. Trust me, I have no personal interest in engines or wrestling stances, however, because those things are important to my boys they become important to me as well. By training with her you are showing your support, and therefor laying the foundation for a wonderful relationship with your daughter.

    • Anonymous says:
      • Grown and Flown says:

        Making an effort to learn about what motivates our children is so important – I agree.Our son loved baseball and football and I learned to be an educated spectator. This is a time when I can actually participate…very nice for me and my daughter (I hope.)

  13. I’m not sure what I’m more moved by, the insight on mother/daughter relationships or the fact that you can run outside in the Summer heat. My daughter is getting ready to head back to school soon. She has spent most of her Summer with her boyfriend, which has left a void in my heart. I’m realizing our children “leave us” in all different ways at all different times. I have her all to myself for the next 3 days, so I’m looking forward to making the best of it!

    • Grown and Flown says:

      Enjoy these three days with your daughter! I agree whole-heartedly with what you said about how our children “leave us” in all different ways.

  14. my 8yo likes to come “run” around the track with me. but she mostly just ambles and listens to her iPod and then whines when she gets bored. still, it’s sweet having her there with me.

  15. Enjoy every minute with your daughter. I spent too much time while she was growing up worried about disappointing my bosses to go to school functions and I so regret that now. During her second to last year of school I was made redundant and she had her Learner’s drivers licence and had to do 100 hrs of supervised driving – we did a lot of that together and I so enjoyed those times. My husband often has to work away from home and my daughter is now 20 – I am expecting her to not want to spend time with me and rather be out doing stuff with her friends – but so far she is happy spending time with me – at home, shopping, at the movies – and not because I pay for her as quite often she pays for me !
    Treasure these moments – they are so precious.
    Me

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