The empty nest feeling has hit me like a ton of bricks recently. Somehow, these first day of school boards have helped.
Rohan and Dayven are so excited to start school, and while I’m thrilled that they’re excited, truthfully, I’ve also been feeling a tinge of the blues this summer, especially this school year.
You see, Rohan is starting high school.
A freshman! I cannot believe it. When I see him, it’s hard not to recall him as a baby, my precious first born.
He hasn’t said it, but I can see that he has been feeling the blues in this 2023 back to school season, too.
This chapter is so distinct. I can see him becoming a young man, a full person discovering who his soul is. He is just a few short years away from college. My mom brain equates that to: he’s going to leave our family home soon!
And then, believe it or not, Dayven is just one year behind him.
I know that when Rohan leaves home (and Dayven), they are destined to do great things.
But right now, all I want to do is grab them and hold on tighter and longer. It’s like I’m experiencing a premature sense of loss. Hello, empty nest syndrome!
This particular transition has hit me like a ton of bricks, and brought on a lot of mom guilt.
You know the empty nester questions, like:
Can they even do a calendar or enjoy reading a book??? I tease, but I don’t think so!
I. DON’T. KNOW.
And even if I did do my best, I absolutely love this time with them and want more of it.
They have always been my top priority, but now I really want to hone in on getting to know them as the humans that THEY want to be.
With this empty nester mindset shift, I’m moving more towards helping them navigate the world through more grown up eyes. We’ve aged out of the years of “don’t touch that, put that down, not in your mouth!” and can hold more thoughtful conversations.
I can now share my own experiences with them, take them on work trips that maybe I never would have, share more of my tears, and what’s on my heart in ways I haven’t before.
Just the other day, I asked them how many times they’ve seen me cry. You know what they said?
In their whole lives, they’ve only seen that happen three or four times, which I felt so sad about because it’s true.
This was a wakeup call for me. Sure, it’s good to show your kids the serious sides of you, but I let that become all of me, the only version that they saw.
That’s not okay.
So, I pulled away from sharing my life and projects online, and decided to share my life and projects with them instead.
They’ve been on my work trips, we’ve traveled, went to a T-Swift concert, and created a space where happy and sad tears are welcome all the same.
I don’t have the perfect solution, but I’m starting there (being a present mom).
So, to get past these empty nester blues, I decided to do what has always helped me to get through something difficult; create.
Even as a young girl, when I had no control over anything, creating was one of my most therapeutic ways to cope.
The process of creating has always been something that calms me, focuses me and helps me understand what I’m going through to get back to feelings of joy and gratitude.
So today I wrangled the boys to do a back to school project with me.
Here’s how it started. I thought it would be so cute to buy one of those, “I’m in the x grade” boards for the first day of school, but when I went to purchase them, they seemed so kid-ish, like something I would have gotten for them when they were in elementary school.
While I want to commemorate this milestone, I also don’t want to embarrass the boys. Through my empty nester tears at 3:00am, a project idea came to my mind.
I decided we’re going to create our own first day of school boards together.
Instead of answering generic surface level queries, I created my own questions that all three of us can answer. Then, we can put them on these boards to be intentional about our school year, how we spend time together, what they want to accomplish, some of their challenges and come up with something that’s special to them.
It may be a disaster. It may be great. I really don’t care! Hah, that’s the first time I’ve ever said that, ever.
I just want to cherish this memory together, make it special for Rohan’s big new chapter. Equally, I want to cherish this quality time getting to know the little young men that they are becoming and are right now, before I actually do have an empty nest.
So welcome to my dining room where we’re going to be doing this cute little first day of school boards project!
I have shared with them a couple of questions that we’re going to answer on their boards.
To make it more fun and creative, I sought out a few supplies to decorate with.
One of my first favorite tools is a little circle master grid, which is good for adding little dots and coloring them in to section off my board.
Then I ended up getting a couple of different lettering stencils for the boys because, gosh, their handwriting is so bad. I think it’s because they never learned cursive, which there’s no shame in that!
Buuut we’ve got some lettering stencils (just in case). And then I just found a few fun things that they could use like chalk markers, acrylic paint
Before we let chalk or utensils touch our first day of school boards, we answered these questions:
I asked why Dayven picked “boring” as one of his words, and you know what he said? “Because… school.”
The final first day of school boards question was most telling for me. I didn’t expect the answers that came from Rohan.
I asked why meeting new people was scary for him, and he admitted that it’s the fear of the unknown – what other people are going to be like and if they’ll judge you.
This question prompted a conversation that Rohan was ready to have and that I was ready to share; not everyone’s for you, you’re not for everyone, AND THAT’S OKAY.
I explained to him how you’ve got to find your tribe of people who you relate to. It is a great little elevator pitch to yourself – just one sentence to connect.
It could be as simple as asking someone what clubs they’re joining.
For Rohan, that’ll be speech and debate. How easy is that? Just by asking that one question, he can find several people with similar interests.
Ultimately, I love the honesty and vulnerability that my boys showed. I’m glad they didn’t write down what they thought I wanted to hear.
With the questions answered, it was time to take those feelings and address them on the board.
I had them create a template on a sheet of paper first and sift through stencils, and then we got into the project.
You know what I loved the most about their boards?
Each one (even mine) reflects who they are.
In the end, I asked the boys how they felt about this project, if it at least made the first day of school more exciting, and here’s what they said:
Dayven: “N-yeah. Kind of.”
Rohan: “It made me more focused on what I need to accomplish with school starting. And then I like spending time with you – so it was nice to learn more about each other.”
Again, another example of how different my boys are!
I joked with Rohan that I’m going to be his roommate in college, but he was not amused.
You win some, you lose some!
Oh my gosh, these first day of school signs were so fun to create.
I love my boys.
Before we started this first day of school boards project, I was feeling heavy empty nester symptoms.
Now that we have finished this, it has actually filled me with hours of joy, camaraderie, and laughs with the boys.
Last time I felt low before the start of a new school year, I delved into a pantry re-organization project, and while that felt fulfilling at the time, THIS project felt exactly right in my empty nester heart.
You know, I’m so glad that they got to think through and write down their intentions and struggles.
My hope is that now they can leave the house for school equipped with a few new skills, knowing their strengths and weaknesses.
And if not, guess what? It’s just chalk. We can erase it and start all over.
Keep using your amazing design gifts to create heart in your home,
P.S. Please stop by Village Antiques in Houston, and check out our collection of farmhouse-style furniture, French country home decor, antiques, vintage, chalk finish paints, and more!
We are open Monday – Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
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