Recently friends and family have made a similar comment to me—“So are you and Gene back to normal now that the kids are back to college? You both have so much going on—I bet you don’t even miss them.” Their comments were full of encouragement and affirmation. However, I struggled to know how to give a quick, neat response. “No, no, no, we are not back to normal!”, is what I wanted to say.
As always I must process my thoughts over and over to understand how I feel and why I feel it. (Gene has learned to patiently listen!) I want to share with you what I came to understand about Gene and mine new normal. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you know a parent who can relate.
This is what I wanted to lovingly and honestly say to my precious friends and family—
When someone comes into your life, someone you love and care deeply about—especially a child or spouse—their presence in your life produces a special place in your heart that only they can fill. Part of the physiology of that is that the serotonin that is produced in your brain by that relationship. This serotonin gives you a good feeling. It becomes like an addictive drug. You feel so good when you are with that person and are you’re part of each other’s lives.
This truth came to light when Kerry left for college three years ago. At that time all of our kids were out of the house and I realized how much I missed talking with them, doing life with them, and caring for them—being their mom in an age appropriate way. I missed her so much it hurt. I missed our other girls when they left as well, but with the youngest gone there was no one to channel my mom-ness to. I had cold-turkey withdrawal from being a daily mom and being in daily relationship with my girls.
When your loved one is no longer as much a part of your life as they were, you miss them. And you miss the feel-goodness you had with them. Please know I’m not making this about myself feeling good. I’m trying to explain why (the physiology of why) you miss them so much. The serotonin produced by being with them decreases. It is physiological effect of being with them less. There are many reasons it hurts and this is one of them. It’s not because we’re weak or co-dependent. We just miss our kids.
Recently I heard a pastor on the radio quote John Piper’s teaching on how much God delights in Jesus–in being in relationship with Him. (He also delights in us—Zephaniah 3:17.) Ahh, there it was! I delight in my close relationships—Gene, our kids, my friends—in a similar manner of God delighting in Jesus. Please know I know my relationships are nowhere near the holiness and intensity of the Trinity. I’m not saying that. But we are made in God’s image. And God is all about relationship. That’s why He sent Jesus—so we could be in a holy relationship with Him. Part of our reflection of God is being in and delighting in our relationships with others.
As I delight in those closest to me, their absence in my life causes me to miss them. My life is full and meaningful. My relationship with God comes first every morning and I’m doing my best to grow it throughout the day. But I will always have a Gene, Katie, Kerry, Kelsey, and Caleb place in my heart that only they can fulfill.
That’s why I miss them. It’s not that I haven’t moved on and accepted role as the mom of grown kids. It’s not that I don’t want my kids to grow up and have their own amazing adventures—I do and they are! But there will always be a special place in my heart (and brain) that will feel delight when we are together or, second best, interacting with each other. That delight is at its best when we are all together at the same time! I hope I never “outgrow” missing my kids.
If you’re the mom of a grown kid and feeling a little empty after the holidays, give yourself a break. You miss your kiddo because you delight in him the way God delights in Jesus and you! Take your hurting heart to God—He gets you!
I would love to hear about your experience.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.