Beating Back the School Bus Blues
by Anita Agers-Brooks
I watched the yellow bus pull away and allowed my shoulders to slump as I heaved the sigh I’d held in since walking my children to the stop. Another year gone. I had one less summer to spend with my kids before they’d leave home permanently. I shook my head, unable to face the sense of impending loss, but unsure how to keep those doomsday thoughts away. What would I do with myself when my children didn’t need me anymore?
Throughout the years, I’ve met many parents who expressed similar emotions to the ones I faced that day. It’s common to question what the next phase of your life will look like, when the entirety of who you are has mostly revolved around taking care of your kids. But though this is one of the most important roles you will ever fulfill, it’s highly unlikely this is your only purpose. God is not done with you when you are done raising your children.
While my children were still at home, I explored possibilities and opportunities. I didn’t want to wait until my kids had moved out to figure out what to do with myself. I secretly began to study what it would take to seriously pursue a dream I’d buried. I set a goal to read 100 books on the craft and business of writing. I read every chance I got, even if it was only in five-minute increments. But I also focused on gratitude for every minute I got to be with my family. Psalm 90:12 became a regular prayer: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV).
In their teens, as my children transitioned into more time with friends and less time at home, I buckled down and got to work. I practiced and researched, preparing myself to live productively when my children fully exercised their independence.
Today, I am an empty-nester, and so thankful I beat back those school bus blues to explore my potential future. I encourage anyone who can relate to consider four important steps to succeeding in a balanced way.
Make every precious moment with your children matter, now. When you catch yourself saying, I have to, remember you get to.
Start dreaming again. What ideas, fantasies, thoughts and dreams have you laid aside to raise your family? Start considering what you might resurrect and start taking tiny steps toward making those dreams come true.
When life feels dark, don’t assume you’ve been buried—believe you’ve been planted. Ask yourself, What’s waiting to sprout from the soil of my current circumstance?
Begin to ask God where you should invest the abilities, talents and gifts He’s given you. If you mistakenly believe you don’t have any, ask Him to reveal what your gifts are.
Wherever your explorations take you, when insecurity sets in (and it will), use daily affirmations to boost your energy, increase your endurance and remind you of who you truly are—as a person as well as a parent. Words have the power to harm or to heal, depending on how we wield them.
Become attentive and intentional about your self-talk. Smother negative, berating and defeating messages with inspiring and energizing words. Positive self-talk is a powerful motivator and mood lifter. Here are some of my favorite mental reminders:
I am calm and cheerful.
I feel energetic and fit.
I am loved and wanted.
I feel strong and capable.
I am a giver not a taker.
I feel positive and happy.
Be you. No one else can. Be willing. Others often aren’t. Be daring. Only you can share your unique gifts with the world.
If you begin to exercise these kinds of practices in your daily habits, amazing things will begin to happen. You will discover new interests, passions and purposes to pursue, allowing you to release and encourage your children as they follow their own dreams.
You will set a productive and positive example for your children that will benefit them throughout their lives.
You will honor God by actively seeking what it is He wants you to do from the full scope of your life.
You will experience an increase of peace and a decrease of anxiety, as you grow in confidence. Not only will you become a better version of you, but you will become a much more pleasant parent with your children—no matter what age or stage they’re at.
So, the next time you see that last glint of yellow turn the corner, taking your children out of sight, beat back those school bus blues and refuse to let them pull you into anxiety or a pit of despair. Instead of looking at this as an end, see it as a new beginning. Fresh opportunities await them and you.
Life’s best comes from listening for God’s voice, believing His promises are as true for you as they are for others and speaking truth to yourself instead of listening to mental lies. Number your days in positive ways and not only will you gain a heart of wisdom, you’ll lift your own spirit in the process.
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