There is nothing that prepares you for having your first child leave the nest. Nothing.
Add in that this child is leaving you for two years. The only contact will be once-a-week emails and twice a year half hour skype conversations. Conversations that have to be shared with every other family member! This is the life of an LDS missionary mom.
Tomorrow will mark the completion of one week for my son’s two year mission commitment. This week has dragged by, each minute lasting FOREVER! Only 103 more weeks to go …
Our family is incredibly close-knit. Like make homemade popcorn and play board games together every weekend close. We text, we laugh, and we enjoy each other’s friendship. As our children have grown older, the friendships have grown deeper.
Saying goodbye was hard. I got through the airport hugs with many tears, yet I kept it together. It wasn’t until I got home that I curled around his pillow and sobbed for hours in his bed. Wow. That was unexpected. I’m not the kind of person who cries. I’m a do-er, not a cry-er!
Nothing prepared me for this. I have poured myself heart and soul into preparing my son for this moment! Making him cook meals and do his own laundry and ironing. Teaching him to sew on buttons and do chores around the house. Taking every opportunity to share my personal testimony throughout his life. Volunteering him for every single service opportunity that came our way. He is so very ready for this moment, but I am not.
Going through this experience taught me five lessons I’d like to pass along to anyone else who may be going through this or who knows someone going through this life experience.
#1. Do NOT say the words, “At least …” the moment you utter those words, you are about to invalidate that person’s experience. These words have prefaced the following for me:
“At least you only have the one son. I had five sons to see off on missions.” (*Soooo … my pain is somehow less because he is my only son?)
“At least he is going to somewhere in the United States, so you know he’ll be safe.” (Um, nope. Pretty sure this world is a scary place no matter where he’s heading.)
Instead offer compassion and, if you have it, your experienced wisdom. My favorites:
“I saw four of my kids off on missions. I’m sorry to say it hurts just as much with each one. I’m here if you need to talk or cry.”
“My advice? Chocolate. Chocolate and tissues!”
“Take it one moment at a time. I promise, it does get easier to bear.”
My personal favorite was from a friend who stopped by, ran into my house, gave me the tightest squeeze as she said, “I wish I had chocolate. I don’t, but I love you my sweet friend. It’s hard, but you can do this!” (She had just sent her son off to college a few months ago.)
#2. DO share advice and insights! If you know anything about the area the missionary is heading, share with the missionary’s family. We love everything we are learning about the area he is going to serve in! If you live in the area a missionary is in—TAKE PICTURES. Preferably candid pictures that the missionary may be unaware of, so we can see him in action!
#3. Be a shoulder to cry on. My fifteen-year-old daughter has a sweet friend whose brother just returned from a mission. She sent my daughter a message, “Call me. Cry to me. I missed my brother so much when he left and wished I had someone to talk to. Let me be there for you.” My daughter did reach out to her and this friend was able to comfort my daughter.
#4. Be still and allow everyone to handle challenges in their own way. I struggle with allowing my husband to have a difficult time when I need him to be strong for me. Stepping back and listening to his struggle with this separation allowed me to hear of his strong love for our son and to appreciate yet another depth to this incredible man I love!
Each of our three daughters handled this differently. Our eldest handled it by crying with her compassionate friend. Our youngest handles it with occasional outbursts of, “I miss him! I just really, really miss him!” … then she barrels into her newest life adventure. Our tween has handled it with a lot more drama. Finally, I realized that she needed alone time with me to talk. After almost an hour of chatter about a whole lot of insignificant stuff, she was ready to tackle talking about the loneliness she was feeling. Afterwards, her gentler personality re-appeared!
#5. Appreciate the little things. Cookies dropped off by our next-door neighbors the day after our son went to the airport. They are not members of our religion, so this was especially unexpected. Their expression of love and support for our family and our son meant so much to us.
A friend I haven’t talked to in years called to catch up and share her own experiences of her sons’ going to college. Another friend posted via social media, “You are so selfless… my heart breaks for you. I am sending you huge hugs… and a ton of admiration ❤” ” Knowing that she and so many others not of our faith are supporting our son and watching our family during this time have helped me to focus on the reasons why we are making this sacrifice: to bless others with the incredible peace and joy our family has found in following Christ!
Hard as this week has been, it is so worth it when I consider the person my son will become through giving his all by serving and loving those he is with. It is so worth any sacrifice if he will be able to share with others the knowledge that God loves them and is aware of them. Our family has hopes that our missionary will return to us a better version of himself because of his mission experience. We are determined that he will find his family has done their best to give him a better family to return home to!
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.