Linda Wechter-Ashkin PhD NCSP BC-TMHC ADHD CCSP
When my son Alex was little, I knew he would be my last, so I began to measure my time left with him by the size of his hands. My mind would slip into thoughts of how I would survive when my children moved out and I would begin to panic. My heart would race, I’d have trouble breathing, and I would feel like I couldn’t swallow. Then I would hold his little hand and say he is only 8 Linda you are okay. His hands are little. When Alex was in middle school, he announced one day that the hugging had to stop, at least publicly and I felt something inside me shrivel, but I said that’s okay. I felt those old symptoms flare up and I looked at his 12-year-old hands and I saw they were still little, and the panic subsided. I remember when Alex was preparing to move to UF. I was so happy for him but not looking forward to having a son so far away. I hugged him even though I wasn’t supposed to, and kissed his head, and held his hands. They were the hands of a man now, no longer my little hands, and I broke down and cried. Of course, Alex told me to stop being a baby and I got myself together and we continued to decorate his dorm room.
On the sickening drive home, I thought about why I was so sad when I should be so proud. He was a good man, had a beautiful, loving girlfriend, and was headed for a career in medicine. I cried out to God as I do when I can’t find the words to pray and waited for his response. I find when I truly cry out I always feel him. He knows I need to. All I really heard was let him go and grieve. Not what I wanted to hear but what I needed to be told. I was proud of my boy and all he had and was going to accomplish, but I was also grieving the little hands that brought me flowers, danced with me, rubbed my head, and held my hand. About a year ago Alex moved his man hands from our town to Naples which is about two hours away. I felt that same panic again even though I knew in my heart it was the right move for him and his wife Sara. Again, I cried out to God in the middle of the night and asked how I was going to do this. And my God corrected me once again. He calmed my heart and reminded me that those little hands were only mine for a little while, that I had done a good job, and that I had to let go once again. If you are an empty nester and trying to figure out what now I promise there will be new beginnings, new memories, and if you are lucky like me, new little hands that come in the form of grandbabies.