An empty nest means saying goodbye to the kids.
As in, letting go.
Letting go of our kids isn’t easy, is it? Even when they’re grown.
And yet, as parents our main goal is to raise our children in such a way that they will grow up to be independent, capable adults. Which means letting go is part of good parenting, whether we’re seeing them off to the first day of kindergarten or helping them move their worldly possessions into an apartment.
My empty nest journey
Four years ago my youngest son went off to college and we became empty nesters. Since I am an introvert and have always enjoyed having the house to myself, I didn’t have much of a problem adjusting to an empty home. I learned to fill the sometimes lonely after-school hours, and to scale back the cooking. We no longer had to consult the sports schedule before making weekend plans. We went out for dinner more often, because we could. It was nice.
Life trundled on.
The kids came home for breaks, including a month at Christmas and (sometimes) the entire summer. It was nice having them home long enough to catch up on life and complete a project or two. And it wasn’t too hard to say goodbye again and return to the peace and quiet of an empty nest.
But all that has changed.
Empty nest, phase two
My youngest son graduated from college in May. Last week he moved into an apartment near Philly, where he is working. After having him home all summer, his absence leaves a big hole in my heart.
Because this time it’s for real. He won’t be home for fall break. He won’t have a month off at Christmas. He won’t be home next summer—in fact, he’ll be getting married and taking yet another step away from the nest.
Part of me is proud of my son for leaving the nest and starting life on his own. But part of me wishes I could hold on to my boy. I don’t want to give up those spontaneous evenings when he wants to talk about serious stuff. I want to be there to share the little moments of laughter or wonder. And to comfort him when illness or heartache strike.
But my job is to let go. Willingly and completely.
I must choose not to nag, meddle, or otherwise shower him with unsolicited advice. I must avoid the temptation to rush out and buy him all the things his apartment needs to be complete. (Living room furniture, curtains, placemats, a vacuum, a plant or two …) I must give him space to become an adult on his own terms, even when that means making mistakes and dealing with the consequences.
Maybe I don’t like this empty nest thing so much, after all.
Choosing to be content with my emptier nest
Instead of dwelling on the downsides of children moving out, I have decided to follow my own advice and learn to be content with this new phase of life. (At least until son #1 finishes grad school next spring and possibly moves home. Then I may be going through this cycle all over again.)
- Content to let him figure out how to live on his own, in his own way
- Content to accept his new schedule, with its different constraints and opportunities
- Content to embrace whatever this new phase brings, both to my life and to his.
It may not always be easy, but I believe it will be good. For me and my son.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to begin planning how I will repurpose the newly empty rooms. (Gotta prepare a suitable room so grandkids can come for visits, right?)