Experiencing the empty nest

Published 6:44 am Thursday, August 13, 2020

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I remember the day my parents dropped me off at college, the backside of their van driving away towards home. I broke out into sobs that were difficult to understand because I was certainly excited about starting a new chapter in my life, but being separated from my family was the strangest experience. Fast forward twenty nine years and I am now the weepy mom who is soon to be moving her one and only child out of the home, a date that is arriving much quicker than I had anticipated.

Upstairs, boxes are strewn about as carefully selected items are lovingly packed away, and during this transition time, I have uncovered kindergarten drawings, well-loved baby dolls and clothes that hold endless memories. Not going to be missed are the ridiculous amounts of half empty water bottles littered around her room, or the clean clothes fresh out of the dryer, unfolded and wrinkled taking up their space on the floor.

As the time draws nearer, I find myself wandering past the doorway of her room trying to anticipate what it will be like without her here, and my heart squeezes just a tiny bit. As a mother, you raise your child knowing that one day this moment will come and yes, you are perhaps their biggest supporter, however it doesn’t do much to dampen the sadness that seeps in when you least expect it. Maybe I am being melodramatic in feeling this type of grief, and yet I also know that it is an earned right that I have as a parent.

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We are allowed to miss our children, even before they are gone because as they are growing up, they are also growing into young adulthood, thus changing the relationship.

I try not to get my feelings hurt when friends and activities are chosen over us because hey, that used to be me as a college student as well. I want her to experience every part of what college has to offer, a daunting task during this COVID-19 time, but one that I know she is embracing.

In a few days, her room will be empty and the house will feel unbelievably quiet without her here. Our rescue pups can already feel her absence as she prepares for the move, her attention elsewhere, and so we receive extra cuddles and support from them because they “just know” we are feeling sad. Many who are reading this may not have experienced the “Empty Nest Syndrome” as of yet, and to you I say “Hold onto every single moment! Make those memories and never take the sound of your children running through the house for granted.”

And for those who have already been there and are walking the path, maybe you are recalling your own experience and are reaching out to me though these words and are saying “You got this! Yes, it hurts and it’s definitely different, but everything is about perspective and if you think about it, there is an incredible opportunity for new growth as you enter into a different chapter of adulthood.”

So, I guess we’ll make the trek to the grocery store and buy endless supplies of Ramen Noodles and Pop Tarts, a staple of every college student. Then, we’ll procure the keys of her new apartment and move her into her “new home.” Don’t mind us while we cry into our coffee or try to figure out this next chapter in our lives.

I know we will “figure it out” and we will adapt, but please understand, I will probably sleep with her very well loved “pink baby” for many nights and remember all the times she needed me to “hold her” when she was sad or not feeling well. And I will smile, because as parents, I know that we are allowing her to “fly.”