Tag Archives: Teaching

My Nest is Empty

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I’ve been raising babies for 31-plus years.  Many of those years there were 4 or 5 of them under our roof.  They were my life’s work.  I poured myself into motherhood.  It was my calling, my ministry, my redemption.  It was also where I made the most mistakes and how God uncovered my deepest flaws.  Nothing grew me more than being a mama…

Growing up, I remember some of the vows I made to myself, even as a young girl.  I vowed I would raise my sons to be sensitive and communicative, not afraid of deep emotion in themselves or others.  I vowed I would raise my daughters to be strong and confident, not needing a man’s attention or approval to feel good about themselves.  I vowed that my children would never let someone feel left out of anything as I always did being raised as the only girl in a family of 5 children.  And finally, as an adult, I vowed that I would show my children the unconditional love that I yearned for all of my life and that I would do all I could to nurture them just as God made them to be, not trying to make them fit into some proverbial box that the world said was “normal” or “better.”

My children are all incredibly inclusive and it makes my mama’s heart swell with love and pride when I see how much they all make the effort to ensure everyone feels a part of things.  My sons are sweeties, communicating their hearts and listening to others sincerely.  My daughter is probably the strongest woman I know.   She is more comfortable in her skin at 24 than most women are at 54.  For the most part, her approval comes from Her Father and she has the kind of healthy boundaries I only dreamed of at her age.  

Truly, they have grown up and into even better human beings than I could’ve imagined, both because of, and mostly, in spite of, me being their mama.

I remember when my oldest was born and I was neurotic about anything hurting him in any way.  I was just sure he was too wonderful a blessing for me to deserve and as soon as someone realized their mistake, he would be taken from me.  When my 2-year old stepson came into my life I remember doing all I could to be sure he felt like our home was just as much his home and that he belonged.  The birth of our only daughter four years later brought this confident peace that our family was complete.  Her big brothers adored her and we had a little girl to add to our precious family of boys.  It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo and I was much more confident in my role as a mama.  Life was good.  When she was just 9 months old we found out that we were pregnant and then, a few weeks later, we discovered the reason I was so, SO sick was that “there were two buns” in my oven, as our OBGYN so politely stated during our initial ultrasound.  It was a drama-filled pregnancy, financially, physically and emotionally.  After a pretty scary  emergency c-section delivery more than 6 weeks before our due date, having 3 babies under 18 months, two of which were premature, was a special kind of crazy.  Sometimes I can’t believe we survived those first two years.

Truth is, I’d go back and do it all over again, if given the chance.  I loved raising my children.  Those years were the best years of my life in so many ways.  I homeschooled them for many reasons, but one of them was because time goes so quickly and I wanted as many moments as I could get with them before it was time for them to leave.  It’s funny because I committed to savoring every moment with them and it still feels like it went TOO fast and it wasn’t enough.  Don’t get me wrong.  My children often drove me completely insane and I would think, “It’s okay.  They’ll leave soon and then you’ll wish you had this mess to clean up.”  Almost instantly my sanity would return and I’d realize that just because I’ll miss them doesn’t mean I should be thankful for their messes!  Right?!

As mad as the early years were when all 5 of our kiddos were young and living at home (when the older 2 weren’t with other bio-parents), it was a simple that I didn’t appreciate enough until it was gone and replaced by the teen years.  You haven’t really lived until you go through that time with 2 kids from previous marriages at the same time and then again with 3 full time offspring.  Seriously, surviving that with your mind mostly intact, is award-worthy.  

And still, I would do it all again. Differently, better, hopefully, but truly anyway I could get it.  I’d do it all again.  

But, I won’t because I can’t, and that’s okay.  Mostly… 

moreso in a month, maybe.

Because last week our daughter moved out of our house and she was the only one left in my nest.  After she walked out the front door with her last big load, our love and prayers poured all over her, I watched a movie with my Honey and went to bed.  The next morning my Honey went to the gym with our son and I piddled around the house, rearranging the pantry and cleaning out the refrigerator.  It was kind of glorious.  Then I walked into our bedroom, sat on our bed, choked out the words, “My nest is empty” and sobbed, not boo-hoo cried, but full body-sobbed for 20 minutes, hard. 

The most important work of my life has ended.  It’s okay, even healthy, for me to mourn that.  She tried to tell me that it wasn’t the most important thing I had ever done, but that’s because she isn’t a mama and she thinks that I’m hopeless if the most important thing is over.  She said that because she doesn’t want to feel responsibility for my sadness – and she shouldn’t.  She should know that I know that no matter what God brings into my journey, the thing I’ve completely poured myself into, grown the most doing, humbled myself the most before and feel that I was born to do and called to was being their mama.  This new season is for her to celebrate and simply make space for me to process and grow.

Being their mama is not all that I am and my life is certainly not over because I am no longer raising my precious children, but it was def the meat of my life-work sandwich.  And this is my mourning season for all that those years brought me, that I am only now able to slow down enough to reflect on with the self-forgiveness, wisdom and grace that I simply didn’t have when we were all living it.

I loved my children well.  I wrestled with my control issues for years in order for them to grow into who God made them to be.  We all made mistakes, but not one of them was because we lacked love for one another.  We were and remain human beings who make mistakes and need God’s grace, as well as one another’s.  As I watch my 3 youngest begin to take flight, I feel a sense of joy and pride that comes with a job well-done.  I have a confidence that they are all striving to be in God’s will and that is enough for this mama.  I don’t expect their lives to be without strife, but I am sure of His plan for their lives being more than I could ever hope for because they have chosen to follow Him with abandon.  I have this hope for my life as well.

I quit my teaching job last year for more reasons than you have time to read about.  I then nannied for several families for a little more than a year.  It has been hard and wonderful.  I’ve done several other jobs in the meantime, but my husband asked me to stop working for a bit and figure out where my next step should be.  He wants me to spend time writing because he knows this is how I best find my center.  Even my daily prayer time is journaling a letter to Jesus, rarely do I pray aloud.  My sweet husband has watched me go through a bit of a mid-life crisis and feel like I have been so busy trying to take care of everyone and everything that I’m not slowing down to hear My Father calling.  So, naturally, I’ve spent the past couple of weeks of semi-unemployment cleaning the house, rearranging everything just so and NOT writing nor slowing down. 

This is Day One of unemployment and I’m working on this blog I started a week or so ago. 

I’m writing.  

Here’s the great stuff…  My life’s work is pretty much amazing.  My babies couldn’t really “wow” me more than they do. 

My husband and I started this great journey of ours with a 2 and 3 year old in-tow, so, in 28 years, we’ve never just been “Us” without little ones or bigger ones to consider.  I have looked forward to this time of just the two of us for more years than I can remember.  There is something magical about those all alone times you have as a couple and except for an occasional weekend in the beginning, we’ve not had much opportunity to enjoy being just a couple.  We’ve worked really hard through the years to stay connected so that when this time came we wouldn’t be lost, we wouldn’t be unable to find “us” again, but here we are and there is a little bit of relearning who we are, who we’ve become and what we want to do with all of that.  Honestly, he is one of my favorite people in the world.  He is funny, protective, and works harder than any man I’ve ever known.  He’s a ESFP, a hard 7 on the enneagram, and his love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.  He could not be more the opposite of me and I could NOT be more thankful for that.  He just seems to get more handsome as he gets older and that’s impressive and wonderful and also, just a bit irritating, as I do not suffer from the same condition!  He’s much easier to get along with than his younger self and I find myself both loving and liking him more and more as we grow in years together.  God willing, we are still young enough to enjoy each other for many years.  It’s blowing my mind that we are finally here!    

Our 3 youngest come to see us because they want to spend time with us now, not because they have no choice.  Well, they also come for food and gas money, but usually they stay and actually have conversations with their dad and me.  This is the stuff.  When your children grow up and you can see the best parts of you and your husband in them and you truly enjoy their company.  My children challenge me in my walk with God, in my relationships with others, in my personality junk that gets in the way of my being who He calls me to be.  Honestly, it’s humbling in the best way and so rewarding.  I just stand in awe of the humans they’ve become.

I’ve found friends (finally) who are real and that is a gift for a girl who searched high and low for far too long only to come up empty on too many occasions.  It’s also a blessing to not have to have your kiddos tangled up in your friendships because, let’s face it, we all think our kids are the “good” ones and while your babies are happily making up after a tussle with each other, we are usually still harboring that mama-bear resentment that is waiting to spring at any wrong move from the other side.  I am enjoying friendships founded on 2 women with their own personalities and not founded on our children becoming friends.  After homeschooling and working full-time for so many years, I am beside myself that I have the time to go to lunch with friends that I’ve made on my own, in a city that I love.

I have time with My Father like I haven’t had ever before.  I’m not having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. before my children stir, I’m not having to fit Him in when I can because my job sucks the life out of me, I’m not forced to rush through my time with Him like so many times in the past when I had so much on my plate.  I’m thankful for these extended periods of time so that I can be still and listen for His voice.  I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to sign up for everything so that I can feel like people like me or I’m earning my keep, instead, I can wisely wait on Him to call me and serve where I’m called to serve when I’m called to serve and be comfortable in not being busy.

So, my nest is empty and this new way of living for this hard 2 on the enneagram is anything but comfortable right now.  I love my children with my whole heart, but I am more than a mama and a wife.  I am a woman who has reveled in and hidden behind her husband’s and children’s wants and needs for 31+ years.  All at once, I am terrified of what the future holds, while also waiting with hopeful expectancy for His direction.  There’s no place to hide and no time to waste anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attachments…

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holding hands

This happens every year.  I’m not quite sure how it sneaks up on me every time.  I think it’s the busyness of paperwork, the excitement of summer break fast approaching, the craziness of state testing and waiting for the results, the avoidance of heartbreak.

In August, when I return, I always wonder a little bit how I will love these children like I love the kiddos from my previous class…which is ridiculous, because absolutely EVERY year I fall madly in-love with my students – and I never fall out of love with any of them.  Which is why the end of May and the beginning of June is so painful for me.

The irony is that there’s so much “stuff” – otherwise known as objectives – we have to cram into our kiddos heads all year.  Deadlines to meet, assessments (so flippin’ many assessments) to administer, lessons to make exciting and interesting, and I’m all over that.  I take my responsibilities very seriously.  I need to know that I’m doing all I can to prepare my precious kiddos for life and more importantly, I need to know that I’m instilling a deep love for learning in every precious baby.  So, much to my amazement and exhaustion, we get it all done.  The last few weeks arrive after we’ve worked really hard to learn all we need to learn for the better part of ten months.  We have a little wiggle room now.  We can do the fun stuff that went with the lessons earlier this year, but that we just didn’t have time to do because of the ever present deadlines.

And then Memorial Day weekend comes and goes, and I try to figure out how I’m going to get it all done – The Fun Stuff: the memory books, the room clean-up, the paperwork, the party, the awards, the report cards, the entire check-out list and more are all looming, but all I really want to do is sit on the carpet with my kiddos and read books and listen to them share their thoughts, share their hearts.

Last Friday one of my especially precocious boys walked up to me and said, “Mrs. Ojeda, I love you!  I’m really gonna miss you this summer.  When I’m in 2nd grade, can I come and see you here, in our classroom?  I don’t really want to be in someone else’s class.”

I told him he better come and see me.  I told him he would ALWAYS be welcome here, and then I assured him he would come to love his teacher just like he loves me and that she would love him just as much as I do.  I did this all while not allowing myself to tell all of my babies how much I will miss them and worry about them and wonder if I’ll ever be able to love my kiddos next year like I love them.

Yesterday, I asked them to try to remember all of the things we did that they LOVED this year – all the way back to the first day of school.  They called out, “Jitter Juice!” and “Solar S’mores!”  “Rainbow windsocks!”  “Silly dancing with sillier hats!” “Homework parties – Rootbeer floats, movies, popcorn, pajamas…”   “Sushi and Bubbles!”  “Daily 5 Reading!” – Yes, several of them yelled this out with pure joy!  “The Austin Zoo!”  “The Hands-on Museum!”  “All 27 Junie B. Jones books!!  We Did It!!”  … and so much more.  We had so much fun reminiscing together.  I told them how proud I am of all they learned this year and then I told them how thankful I am for all they’ve taught me.  Naturally, they were shocked to find out they have taught me things, as well, so they asked what they’d taught me!  I told Jasmine that she’s taught me how to be a truly kind and caring friend, and Knowledge & Kamya reminded me what amazing things can happen when you work hard and never give up.  Isaac taught me that sometimes I need to remember my students are only 6 and 7 years old and what I say and how I say it is important.  Ashlyn proved to me that it isn’t always how smart you are, but how motivated you are – and that is a HUGE part of my calling.  Christopher showed me what a blessing someone can be when they offer to help others on the regular.  Andrew reminded me what true childlike joy is and how sometimes, it makes you completely unable to control yourself or your actions for just a little bit and that it’s okay for me to just enjoy that and not try to subdue it or control it.  Dylan taught me that actions speak much louder than words and meeting emotional needs comes first.  Jackie taught me that a born leader can still cry like a baby and be fearful of the future.  I could go on and on.  My precious kiddos taught me more than I could list here.  They humbled me, frustrated me, made me mad, brought me joy, challenged me, brought out my ugly pride and insecurities, made me spit out my drink, laughing and grew my heart, big…

Every group of kids I’ve ever taught has made me better – more humble, more aware that all the good stuff comes from Him.  I can always see bits of my own children in them, my siblings, former students, or even myself, at times.  Sometimes I feel like He’s giving me another chance because I’ve messed up so many times before and He wants me to get it right this time. I feel lucky that He’s letting me try again with the knowledge of my past screw-ups.  That’s one of the good things about getting older, experience brings wisdom.  Wisdom brings deeper love and humility.  Deeper love brings heartbreak…  and so, here I am, again.

The good stuff is that I loved them all well.  I taught them a bunch, mostly to LOVE reading and writing and to be curious about EVERYTHING!  – and it’s summer (!) and I’ll see them and hug them next year.  The not so good stuff is I miss them and my heart is a little bit broken.

The good stuff list is WAY longer than the not so good list!

I find it ironic that I always share with them that I believe writing and reading are SO important for a bunch of reasons, but personally, I love to read when I need to move away from really sad or angry feelings and I love to write when I need to work through those same kind of feelings.  I spent an hour reading Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerine’s, which is full of uplifting, real and sometimes hilarious stories (just what I needed), and now, I’m wrapping up this post.

Good stuff…

Happy Summer!

let go