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Packing to move

No One Prepares You For The Hardest Part Of Parenting: Letting Go

Home / Experience / No One Prepares You For The Hardest Part Of Parenting: Letting Go

By Melanie VanDerveer on July 6, 2023 at 1:00 PM EDT
Updated on July 6, 2023 at 1:22 PM EDT

When you find out you're expecting a baby, there's tons of resources to help you prepare for the newborn days. There are even tons of books about toddlers and teens. But there's nothing that can get you ready for when your child is an adult and is ready to leave the nest.

My oldest son is leaving home this week. We've known for a few months that he decided to move to Florida to be with his girlfriend instead of her moving here to Pennsylvania. And even though I've had months to prepare, I still feel like a freight train has run me over and someone came along and ripped my heart out. Ok, I'm being a little overdramatic....but am I?

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My Oldest Son Is Getting Ready To Leave The Nest And I'm Not Okay

JD VanDerveer
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Before anyone comes for me here, I'm well aware that this was the goal. My quest as a parent was to raise my kids as confident, caring, smart, ambitious humans, and I truly believe my son JD is all of that and more. So, when I say I'm sad he's moving out, I'm sad for me and the life that I knew, but happy for him starting a new chapter the way I always intended. I'm very proud of him for his confidence, his decision-making skills, amazing work ethic and his strength.

But, with all that said, life as I know it is about to change forever. And while I'm not new to the concept of "life as I know it changing," this was one chapter I was hoping would happen later. Time has been flying by and really that's my enemy.

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JD was my infertility baby. I tried for over a year to get pregnant and eventually resorted to insemination, which luckily worked the first try. My pregnancy had its moments - gestational diabetes, placenta previa, pre-term labor, bed rest, walking pneumonia, it was one thing after another. But I smiled through it all because I was finally pregnant. He entered the world with a smirk and closed fists, and now that I've known him for so long, it makes perfect sense. He's a fighter - he goes after what he wants and with a smile on his face.

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Melanie and JD VanDerveer
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JD is now 20 and just recently graduated college with an Associate's degree in Carpentry. He graduated cum laude. Proud doesn't even begin to explain it. This is the kid who was told in fourth grade by a neurologist that he will likely never read at his age level and he'll never enjoy reading because of the struggle.

He was diagnosed with severe dyslexia that day. But that's when the lightbulb went off. Once we knew what his diagnosis was, things changed. He started to read better, enjoy learning more, and really proved that doctor wrong. Actor Henry Winkler even played a role in his success when we met him and he told JD about his backstory with dyslexia and said he should never give up.

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When I went through divorce back in 2015, JD became man of the house at just 12-years-old. I remember him telling me that he put himself in that role and always thought of himself as the problem solver of the house. And he was. This kid could fix anything and everything. Anything that broke, he could fix it or at least tell me what was wrong with it. Last year, he redid our kitchen floors without being formally trained. He's fixed holes in the house, and just a month ago, replaced all the pipes in the crawl space so we would have better water pressure.

JD, Ryder and Jesse VanDerveer
Contributed Photo
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In addition to that, he raised me as much as I raised him, maybe even more. I didn't have parents who were active or good role models in my life. I didn't have much of a family either. So my boys were not only my sons but also the people I learned the most about life from. I learned about true, unconditional love, and how a family should stick together.

JD is the oldest boy of three. He grew up very close to his brothers, Ryder, 18, and Jesse, 17. They were the three amigos being so close in age. They shared clothes growing up, friends, and pretty much everything else. And now, one is leaving the nest, and I think we're all going to be a little bit lost for a while.

Getting Tips On How To Cope With Your Child Leaving The Nest

Melanie and her boys
Contributed Photo

In my quest to help myself and anyone else going through this tough life shift, I researched the heck out of things that could soften the blow a little, and I want to share what I have found. While it's not rocket science, when you're in your feels the way I've been for a while now, it's easy to miss some important things that could potentially help.

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  1. Find a new hobby or jump into an old hobby you haven't had time for.
  2. Explore a new balance in your life - new career, work less, work more, make more time for fun, etc.
  3. Learn something new. Put some of your focus into something that excites you and keeps you motivated.
  4. Keep communication open. Text, call, Facetime.
  5. Keep reminding yourself that you didn't lose your child, they just aren't in your house. And that they'll always want and need their parents, just in a different capacity.
  6. Remind yourself that this was the ultimate goal, and job well done getting them there.
  7. Take more time for yourself. Have a spa day, hang out with friends more. Go on a vacation. Live life.
  8. Pre-plan visits with your child so you have something to look forward to.
  9. If you're really sad or confused about the changes, therapy is a great way to get those feelings validated and work through them without bottling them up or ignoring them.
  10. Plot out your new chapter with exciting things to look forward to.

So here I am...waiting for Thursday like I'm going to the electric chair. I hope the people closest to me are ready for some sad texts and crying sessions. Yes, I'll be okay, but it will be an adjustment.

Did you find a way to manage your feelings and adjust to your new life after your child left the nest? If so, please email me what helped you. It takes a village, and right now, I could use a village that knows how I'm feeling.

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