Greetings GCP‘ers! I’m back from a break from regular posting. This has been quite a busy time: Two of my three children had significant graduations in May: one son from high school, the other from college. The youngest is headed off to college in August, the other has already started his full time job and is moving to his own place. My daughter continues to enjoy life working on the other side of the country. It is the dawning of the age of our empty nest. Quite frankly, and much to my great surprise, I am not as thrilled about it as I thought I would be.
Dropping the first off to college was tough. As excited as I was for her, it was hard to imagine a new family dynamic, and boy was I going to miss her. After we dropped her off I was completely glum, until our youngest asked, in an earnest effort to figure out what would make me feel better: “Do you want her to come back?” That was just what I needed to snap me back to reality. “No”, I replied, “I don’t. I just miss her, but she is exactly where she needs to be.” And with that I was able to turn off the steady sadness and feel good about watching her flap her wings and soar through college.
It was a bit easier the second go round. My son was excited to experience college life after spending time at his sister’s school. When he strolled happily and confidently around his new campus on accepted students day I knew instantly that he belonged there. As I waved goodbye after dropping him at his freshman dorm the pride and excitement I felt about his having his turn at jumping out of the nest completely overwhelmed the tinges of sadness at leaving him there. Besides, he went to school relatively close by, and was happy to pop in for a visit.
So you would think by the third time around I would have this transition thing down to a science. I should be skipping the youngest off to his dorm and planning the zillions of things I’ve been waiting for an empty nest to do. So why do I feel more angst than joy about this chapter of parenting coming to an end? How did I get suckered into the tired old cliche of the mom who is sorry to see the last of her kids leave the nest?
I have no ready answers but here are some preliminary thoughts:
1. It’s the end of a parenting era. Although parenting never ends, the parenting paradigm shifts dramatically when none of your children are living under your roof. As one who is still surprised at the amount of my adult life I dedicated to raising these kids, I am suddenly out of a job, forced to retire. I’ve been put out to pasture.
2. Now what? Now I’ve got the opportunity to do all of the professional and personal things I complained about not having time to do all these years. Sounds great, but the need to figure out what they all are and how to get them done is a bit daunting. Definitely working on the encouraging “Do You” self talk, but it is sometimes fairly slow going here.
3. The challenge of letting go. I know that the best thing for a college kid is NOT to text everyday and see how things are going, although that is SO easy to do nowadays. I also know that having gone through a lot of what this last one is about to, I could save him some trouble by giving him lots of guidance. But I also know that the right (and important) thing to do is to let him go figure it out for himself. Letting go takes more and more effort these days, but I know from lots of experience that it is really important to do.
OK, enough wallowing for now. I will miss this last one like crazy. But the truth is despite feeling sometimes sad and sometimes weirdly fearful about this next chapter, I am also quite excited to see what lies ahead. One of the projects I am most excited about is related to this blog: I’m writing a parenting BOOK, based on some of the issues raised in GCP! More later, but if all goes well I will be working so hard on this I won’t have time to feel all the empty nest pangs.
Got any advice for the new empty nesters? Please share it!!