The Not So Empty Nest ... Dealing With Life As Our Children Grow Up and Move Out
It is spring and the school year is quickly coming to a close. I try to remember that particular August day when I dropped my girl off at her very first college dorm for her very first day of college. I wrote about that experience for my blog and have just re-read it for the first time since I posted it. What an experience. Remembering the excitement in her voice as we stood in the middle of her room with her ugly lime green rug and the boxes she brought from home she said “Mom, this is so cool; this is where I belong!” My mind and mouth agreed with her but my heart screamed “are you kidding me? You belong with me!”
The sense of grief I felt as I hauled myself unwillingly back to my car and drove home was one of the most overwhelming feelings I have ever had in my life. Stumbling up the steps and walking past her bedroom with her closet door hanging open and things strewn across the floor I noticed that for the first time in a very long time she made her bed. That made up bed was a sign that she would not be sleeping in it for quite a while. I lost it. The whimpers turned into full blown sobs and that ugly type of crying that you don’t want anyone to see you do filled every fiber of my being. All I could do was sit and stare at the wall and wonder how in the heck this happened? She had gone on to her brand new world and I was left in my normal every day world without her and not sure what to do. The fact that my nest was a little less full was quite un-nerving.
My daughter walking away from me the day we left her at college....
To say that the past nearly nine months have been difficult for me would be an understatement. I have tried to allow my kids to make their own decisions and be their own people, but I still had the knowledge of what they were doing, where they were going and who they were with. Now, half of my little brood had gone off to bigger and better things and I was left wondering what I was going to do. What was I supposed to do without her home? It had been so long since I considered myself anything other than the momma to two children. And the fact that my baby was turning 13 did not help me at all. My mind told me that this was the way things were supposed to happen but my heart cried for my babies to return to a time when I was their world.
I have plodded through those days of missing her so much I could not think of anything else to the days where my son was away with friends and I found myself with time on my hands, cuddling on the sofa with my husband and reading a book or taking a nap. In the beginning I wanted to call her every day sometimes several times a day to check on her and make sure she was doing okay and that she was eating and sleeping enough. Did she need anything like money or snacks? I knew that I had to let her go and take care of herself but my heart kept getting in the way. There were sleepless nights, unanswered phone calls and texts accompanied by a lot of anxiety and worry. Little by little it became apparent that my girl was doing fine and adjusting to college life. She was in fact exactly where she was supposed to be. And I was learning to adjust to life as the parent of an adult child who was more than capable of forging her way down her own life path and would welcome me (at times) to walk it with her; beside her but not in front of her anymore. She was now the captain of her own ship.
After a lot of soul searching and contemplating my next move as a semi-empty nester, I have come to the conclusion that my job as the momma has changed from the chief navigator of my children’s lives to spectator on the sidelines; watching and reveling in the job their dad and I have done raising and preparing them for the big time also known as their future. As my nest empties little by little, I must reconnect with myself again and figure out what it is that I want to do with the rest of my life. My job as momma will not go away but my duties will change. Now it is time for my husband and I to settle into life as a couple again; although we will always be a family. And even though my head is already trying to prepare for the day when there only be two plates at the dinner table and one hamper full of dirty laundry in the closet, my heart tells me that it’s going to hurt just a bit when this momma bird realizes that both of her babies have spread their wings and flown out of the nest. Bittersweet will be that day but how wonderful it will be to watch them experience all of the wonders of life and maybe one day fill their nest with little ones like I did so long ago.