I love this quote by the wise and wonderful Erma Bombeck:
“When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.”
When you have been totally engrossed in your children’s lives from birth to say 18, when they leave for college or head out the door on their own, or 22, when they graduate from college and no longer move home for summers and vacations, letting them take charge of their own lives is the hardest thing! For Dale and I, the empty nest happened in stages.
First, our oldest son left for college, but our youngest son was still at home. Although the nest wasn’t completely empty, it definitely had a hole in it which had been filled by son #1. Then, son #1 went from Iowa to Seattle for his first internship…bigger distances mean less contact and bigger holes in the nest.
Next son #2 left for college. The nest was empty and we had to adjust once again. But, both sons came and went, home for vacations and summers, so the nest didn’t completely fall apart.
The next change came when son #1 graduated from college and moved to Seattle permanently. That shook the tree a lot, but the nest hung on because son #2 was still only a few hours away.
We took a step backwards for one semester when son #2 became very ill and had to leave school and move back home. He was able to return the following semester so things went back to the way they had been.
Next son #2 graduated. But it wasn’t the clean break it had been with son #1, as he actually moved home and finished his degree with a summer internship here in his hometown. This was, to date, probably the hardest for me. With both the boys out of the house, Dale and I had transitioned into the empty nest phase. We had gotten into a new routine with our new found freedom and our extra time. We had become accustomed to doing what we wanted, when we wanted, with no one else in the mix. So when son #2 came back home, it was quite an adjustment for us. Having an adult child living at home brings up all sorts of issues. You still feel like the mom who should be running things, but the child no longer feels like a child, and does not want your day to day input and control. Of course they won’t say no if you want to do their laundry, or clean up their mess, or cook their favorite foods, but just try to ask them when they will be home or where they are going or who they will be with and you might get your head bitten off.
This brings me to our next stage, the one in which our nest empties out again, and this time probably (barring any major catastrophes) for the last time. Our son found his permanent job and has put his application in on a new apartment. We expect to be moving him next weekend. The nice thing about this phase of our empty nest is that he will still be nearby, but we will regain our independence. I expect this change to be an easy one…one that both Dale and I, and son #2, are looking forward to.
As Erma Bombeck said, you become a spectator in your children’s lives as they grow and blossom and go into the world on their own. For Dale and I this is a very rewarding time. We feel like we have prepared them and can now sit back and watch as they write their own story…star in their own movie. I can’t imagine a better show. Please pass the popcorn.