I’m obsessing about The Empty Nest. This will be boring to those not looking straight into the barrel of this life transition. Even though I now have two adult children, ages 18 and 21, the idea of mourning for my leaving children coupled with an identity crisis seemed distant to me up until exactly two weeks ago.
On Monday, my eldest son informed me he was moving to LA in two days.
On Tuesday, my daughter told me she’s moving out with her boyfriend on September 1.
Since this is too fresh to analyze (well, I attempted a post, but it was mostly about birds), I will lean on others to offer wisdom for me. Oddly, my own children’s transitions have coincided with the American phenomenon of sending away children to college in the fall. So there’s a wealth of essays for me to draw upon.
Here is a perfectly constructed quote from Randye Hoder in the New York Times Motherlode that sums up the whole damn thing really well:
She is well on the road to adulthood, & from this, she will never return – Randye Hoder, Struggling to Let Go of My College-Student Daughter
The aptly-named Grown and Flown blog by Mary Dell and Lisa Endlich is now my bookmarked encyclopedia on this subject. I’ve harvested my favourite Empty Nest quotes from their post called 8 Best of the Empty Nest:
- No surprise, Anna Quindlen wrote a beautiful piece ten years ago that is still relevant today. She says: No, not the writing job–the motherhood job. I was good at it, if I do say so myself, and because I was, I’ve now been demoted to part-time work. Soon I will attain emerita status. This stinks.
- Parenthood offers many lessons in patience and sacrifice. But ultimately, it is a lesson in humility. The very best thing about your life is a short stage in someone else’s story. And it is enough. -Michael Gerson in Saying Goodbye to My Child the Youngster.
- Madeline Levine says in After the Children Have Gone: It is a pleasure to remember that it is not a form of abandonment but an expression of a job well done — and is something to keep in mind as we move back into the center of our own lives, in ways that will make our children proud.
I will continue my fixation on information gathering, but I believe I will not be able to reflect upon this phenomenon until I am safely on the other side. One revelation I have had is: This is not about me. This is about my kids. I put on my brave face as I help my daughter pack up moving boxes, and retreat into the bathroom to shed private tears. I’ve been so proud of NOT being a helicopter parent, but now I’m a puddle on the floor. I seriously have got to get my shit together.