The changing seasons can be felt in many ways whether through the sensations in the air temperatures, the light casting different shadows, the length of the days, the familiar scents of certain foods, or the sounds of seasonal activities. Seasons naturally remind us of the passage of time, year after year.
For those of us who have had several decades living out each season dictated by children’s activities and school schedules, for those of us who have found our livelihood by balancing work with the varying schedules and well-being of our children, the Summer season may present the most poignant challenges when dealing with the empty nest.
Summertime often represents more family time, more outdoor activities, a more relaxed schedule, vacation time with extended family or friends, camps, summer projects and more messes. As the kids get older, summer jobs and friends take them away from home during the long days of summer, and once in college, internships and jobs may keep them away entirely. The days can stretch on for the parent who once had many of those hours filled with the sounds and activities of a rich family life. At least for me, my work life would pick up in the Fall and through the school year, with dips in the major holiday times, to make room for the ever-shifting dynamics of family life.
So, what happens when the last child has fledged the nest and is making his or her own way when even Summer doesn’t lure them back? We find that even Summertime is stamped with that ever increasing ‘LAST’ label as defined by us parents. And suddenly, there you are in the middle of it, even though you’ve anticipated it and even tried to prepare for it. What do we do with the long days of Summer? Does Summer then dissolve into the other months without much fanfare? Do the weeks look pretty much like a week in March or in October?
Perhaps some of us have a larger family so that by the time the last child has left, marriage or grandchildren start to fill in the gaps and the schedule varies some but remains somewhat continuous? Any way you slice it though, the immediate family that once filled the home, has forever changed. And, so, “To everything, turn, turn, turn”. Perhaps during that first Summer, we can start to use the longer days and the quieter space to create a new foundation. “To every season, turn, turn, turn”. We can use the fewer interruptions to listen to ourselves again with a delicacy reserved for the grateful, for the humbled, and with the wisdom that comes from having heeded the lessons through the many seasons, year after year. It is with this kind of listening that we truly do get a chance to create anew. “And a time to every purpose under heaven”.