I’m navigating a new phase of the empty nest. Both of my children are married so they are each members of another family. Members of another family of which I am technically not a part. (Although, I must say, feel very welcomed by).
I have to admit, it feels a little strange. Not bad, just, well, different.
When Your Child Gets Another Family
This really struck me one week this summer when my son’s sweet bride posted pictures of their family vacation on Instagram. They spent a week in a beach house on the coast of South Carolina with her parents, grandparents, brothers, aunt, uncle and cousins. My boy was on a family vacation with another family — his new family.
Don’t get me wrong — I love his new family. They are truly a lovely group of human beings. I’m so thankful that my son’s path intersected with their daughter’s (granddaughter’s, niece’s and sister’s) at just the right time. I’m so thankful that they welcomed him into their fold with open, loving arms and that they are there for him.
This has not been more evident than in the events of the last few months.
The Blessing of Family In The Midst Of Chaos
A little over two months into their marriage, a devastating tornado ripped through their hometown. A few days later, the Coronavirus shut everything down. I’m so thankful he had his wife and her family to lean on. I’m thankful that he didn’t have to go through these things alone. Not only did he not have to go through these strange times alone, I can see where he thrived in them. How could he not with a beautiful new wife?
My husband and I were planning a quick trip to Nashville this spring to visit our son and daughter-in-law when all travel came to a screeching halt. I was disappointed but not nearly as disappointed as I would have been if he was alone. Thankfully, we were able to meet up in the mountains of North Carolina once the restrictions began to lift and hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can travel to Nashville. In the meantime, I know he’s surrounded by people who love him.
No matter how old they are, your child’s well-being is always a concern.
My In-Law Experience
My husband’s parents both died early in our marriage. My father-in-law began showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease a few months after his son and I married. He died five years later, a few days before my husband and I found out I was expecting our son. My mother-in-law died a couple of years after that. She was able to meet our son but not our daughter. My girl missed meeting her Mimi by a little less than a year.
I only remember one family trip with my in-laws — a fun, family reunion in Maggie Valley, NC. There were a couple of beach trips with my mother-in-law and the rest of the family before she died. We didn’t have a lot of time together.
All of this to say, I’ve never experienced “sharing family” before. I haven’t had in-laws in thirty years. My children only knew one set of grandparents. (For that matter, I only knew one set of grandparents as my dad’s mother died when I was four.) I never had to rush from one house to another on Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas, never had to split vacation time. When my oldest sister-in-law was still living, and all of our children were younger, we would celebrate “Wilbanks Christmas” in early December so there was never a conflict with my family’s plans. Thankfully, my remaining sister-in-law is more like a sister and we have a close extended family that gets together often, just not on major holidays.
Be Nice And Share
As I navigate through this new phase of the empty nest, I know I will need to do so with grace and humility — especially if (please God) grandchildren come. I would want my daughter-in-law’s family to be happy with her new family as well. And I would never want to be a source of conflict between my son and his wife. That’s why it’s so important for me to be flexible and learn to share.
How about you? What has your experience been with sharing time with your adult child’s other family? What are some of the things you do to make it work? I would love to hear.