Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Parenting: Letting go & moving on August 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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My husband photographs our eldest daughter and her fiance in front of the rental house that will soon be their new home.

My husband photographs our eldest daughter and her fiance in front of the rental house that will soon be their new home.

Saturday my husband and I helped our eldest daughter and her fiance move her belongings from south Minneapolis to the other twin city and the rental house they will share after their upcoming marriage.

The first van full of our son's belongings ready to be carried into our house.

The first van full of our son’s belongings ready to be carried into our house.

On Sunday we drove an hour southeast to pick up the first van load of our son’s possessions, to move back home to Faribault. In about a week, he flies out to Boston to start classes at Tuft’s University after a summer of working at IBM in Rochester and a year at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

It’s a bittersweet time for us, the parents.

The living room of the engaged couple's rental house.

The living room of the engaged couple’s rental house.

We are delighted that our daughter has found the love of her life. Yet, if I’m honest, there’s also a certain sadness in the realization that the 27 ½ years since her birth have passed, snap, just like that.

Likewise, the 19 ½ years since our son’s birth have passed, snap, just like that. Now he is flying 1,400 miles away to pursue his education, his dreams.

The other daughter lives 5 ½ hours away in northeastern Wisconsin. Nearly three years have passed, snap, just like that, since she finished college, completed an internship in Argentina and moved to Wisconsin for her job as a Spanish medical interpreter.

I suppose all empty nesters go through this phase, this wondering of how the years vanished, how we’ve grown in to the elders with gray hairs and lines creasing our foreheads. It is a time of adjustment and change for our entire family.

The kids no longer live at home, but our house has become a storage facility for some of their possessions like these belongings moved into our living room and then upstairs.

The kids no longer live at home, but our house has become a storage facility for some of their possessions like the son’s belongings moved into our living room and then upstairs. Where to put all of this stuff…and the rest yet to come in the second load.

There are times when I wish I could swoop my trio in, bring them all back, keep them close, turn the clock back.

A dear friend, who is the mother of four ranging in age from almost three to 14, asked how I did it, how I let go. I advised her to start when the kids are young, allowing them little by little to spread their wings. Sunday School and church camp. Nights out with my husband, leaving the kids in the care of a capable babysitter. Annual overnight get-aways for the kids with doting aunts and uncles. Then later, mission trips to Texas and to national church youth gatherings. Volunteer trips to help with hurricane relief. Trips overseas during high school (for one) and in college.

I specifically recall my eldest’s announcement only weeks in to her freshman year at Winona State University that she was joining a spring break mission trip to Paraguay. “Where’s that?” I asked.

I won’t lie. It was not always easy to see my three venture across the U.S. and abroad. It wasn’t even easy when I sent my eldest, as a kindergartner, to church camp a half hour drive away. It isn’t easy now putting my youngest on a plane to Boston. Yet with each letting go, I learned that I could entrust my children to the care of others, that they needed to achieve independence, to experience new things, to grow—away from me and their dad.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


29 Responses to “Parenting: Letting go & moving on”

  1. Mark Ritchie Says:

    Really nice posting – as a parent it was a bullseye!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. I don’t pretend to have all the answers regarding parenting. But this is the approach Randy and I took in raising our three.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    The wonderful thing about being a parent is being able to see your children grow up to be really neat people. The letting go part is difficult, no doubt about that, but it is what we raised our kids to do. I never lived close to my extended family as a child and never thought my children would live close by either. I am certainly glad I did not have those expectation because I doubt that will ever be the case.
    The wonderful thing is that with all the technology available to us today it is very easy to stay as involved in their lives as they will allow—–video calls, texts, emails, it all works to make me feel a part of my boys lives and that is a good thing.
    The empty nest can be such a great time of discovery —-while I miss my boys I certainly love the somewhat slower pace of life than when they were home and active in a zillion things.
    You and Randy have reached a milestone—your kids are all dong so well and you have raised them so well. Be proud, enjoy every moment of the coming weeks and make some memories as you stumble around the mattress and boxes in the living room.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well said, Beth Ann. Technology does help a lot to stay connected. Now I need to figure out how to use Skype, which we used when the daughter lived in Argentina. But the son was home then to assist with that.

      Most of the boxes are now stashed in an upstairs bedroom, where I should sort through them, but am, for the moment, choosing to ignore them. Out of sight, out of mind. Really, though, the son needs to sort through them and see what he might need to take with him to college. Certainly not as much as he did last year. His Boston dorm room will be quite sparse.

      I never thought about those expectations of closeness. I grew up around extended family on my dad’s side. My mom’s side, not. My generation pretty much exited my hometown with no jobs, other than farming. I never really expected my kids to stay in Faribault either.

  3. […] Parenting: Letting go & moving on (Minnesota Prairie […]

  4. Jackie Says:

    It’s so great to see these strong successful kids, venturing our on their own, growing, making decisions, finding the love of their lives 🙂 Two of ours have flown the nest but still very close to home. One little birdie is still hangin on, but we hardly know he’s here. You and Randy have raised some strong independent kids, seemingly full of adventure with definite goals in mind. This is a time where there will be a whirlwind of emotions, you must be so proud of those young’uns.

  5. I live many miles from family and try really hard to get together at least once a year – thank goodness for modern technologies that help you stay in touch too. I thought it funny when I moved cross country that my brother did the same the next year and shortly after that my parents became full-time RVers. You eventually figure it out and get together when possible. Have a Great Day:)

  6. :), Very nice–big month or two for you and your family! What an adorable house–those floors….french doors…..!!!!

  7. Aww…this really hits home for me as my daughter will move into her dorm room one week from today. While I’m excited to see the kind of adult my daughter will become, I am sad that she will no longer be here when we wake up in the morning, when we sit down to dinner, when we hang out on a weeknight. No more kid coming through the door at the end of the school day. It’s all so poignant.
    I did have to chuckle at “the other twin city” line in your blog post. St. Paul can be a very nice place! Good luck to your daughter in her new marriage. Good luck to you in this new phase of your life as a mom!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Shhh, don’t tell Minneapolis this. But if I ever HAD to live in one of the two cities, I’d likely choose St. Paul over “the other twin city.” St. Paul seems less urban to me, which suits this former farm girl.

      I hope the adjustment to life without your daughter at home goes well. It will take awhile to adjust, I’m sure. But once you do, you’ll be OK. And she will be close enough to drop in.

  8. I’m on the other end of the spectrum. With the tummy viruses, sore throats, dread of homework, skinned knees, tangled hair. Crickets in glass jars, fish in bowls, and froggie in aquarium. Good times!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Ah, how well I remember those days. Except for the illnesses and skinned knees and tangled hair, savor each and every day with your little ones. Soon enough you will walk in my shoes.

  9. treadlemusic Says:

    And I/we are left with those seemingly brief memory moments. As you know, we have graduated to the “great grand” phase (which was NEVER on our radar….at least not yet—-we’re way too young, yes???)! Life on this globe is, truly, a vapor that slips through the fingers. Savor every second and then we must let them go. They grow up and go on and so must we with His help for He knows our frame (dust people/His children). Hugs………

  10. Marilyn Says:

    We’ve been empty nesters since 2001. The funniest incident re ‘keeping in touch electronically’ was getting a reprimand from our sons when we went on vacation and didn’t let any of them know where we were and why and when we would be back home. It was a well meant reproof and well received and we haven’t ever done that again!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Marilyn, that’s a great story. Prime, related, example: I just texted my son to let him know we arrived home from Rochester, where we were again this evening, moving nearly the last of his belongings back. I always ask him to text or call when he reaches his destination, so I try to do likewise.

  11. hotlyspiced Says:

    I know what you mean when you say it’s all gone by so quickly. My Archie will be 21 soon and it’s like I almost don’t believe it. How did that happen? When did the years race by so quickly? I think we’d all love to turn back the clock. I still have my little guy but the older two are so independent. They don’t want to come with us on holidays anymore, they’re rarely home for a family meal, and the times we get together all five of us are becoming more and more isolated. It’s so sad as, like you, I’d just like to hoard them in the house for a little while longer xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, Charlie, it’s a challenge sometimes, isn’t it, this letting go? At least you have Alfie. We were the same with your youngest as eight years separate our son and our oldest daughter, with the second daughter six years older than her brother. Every season of parenting is an adjustment. Randy and I truly do enjoy being empty nesters. But there are days when I really miss my “kids.”

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