Friday, August 20, 2010

From nesting instincts to the empty nest...

All pregnant women know what the nesting instinct is all about. A few weeks before delivery, we start to clean and sort and do all the things necessary to feather the nest for our new baby. At the other end of the line is the empty nest moment when our baby birds have grown wings, tested the air, and taken off, leaving behind both messes and memories. I have noticed that quite a few of us are at that stage of life. Some are new to the moment, others like me have had one gone for a few years now and one who is grounded only by the location of a fridge and a bed and hence eventually comes home to roost each night. A year from now, the nest will be completely empty and I can throw out all the dirty feathers.

Some of you reading this are knee deep in the years where you wonder when it will end! I remember thinking that if I had a motor home rather than a minivan; I could do the laundry and cook while chauffeuring the kids around town from lessons to play dates to school and so on. As my mom once told me, “The days will last forever, but the years will be gone in a heartbeat” or something to that effect. She was right. Those heartbeats included broken ones, fast ones, bursting ones and a whole spectrum of types that probably don’t appear in medical textbooks but parents have had each and every one at some point.

What I find strange however, are the number of people who are sad about kids leaving or ask me how depressed I am about coming to the end of those years. Am I sad or depressed about it? No, I may be a bit melancholy, but I am more proud than anything else. Allow me to explain, and maybe this will ease the hearts of some of you who are experiencing your first flight.

I am proud that my husband and I raised two young men with goals and a desire to achieve them. They can’t make their dreams happen at home, the opportunities lie elsewhere. That speaks to their self motivation and bravery to let go and venture off to places unfamiliar. We are proud that they have good manners and can interact with adults of all ages and behave appropriately in situations with varied expectations. My younger son lived in fear on our recent band trip that I would pull my door stop routine and end up with 190 people jammed up behind me. You see, I won’t open a door if a son is with me. I come to a dead stop and stand there until he gets the door. If no child of mine is present, any other male in the vicinity will do and I will let them take the initiative. Most men will do so, the few who do not tend to be teens or so deep into their phones and earplugs that my existence is irrelevant. I may be liberated, but I am also old fashioned in regards to common courtesy. We are proud that our kids can cook, clean and do laundry even though they may not want to or have to, but they can if needs be. We are proud that they understand finances, practice good driving habits, and know how to budget their time. We are proud that they still like to spend time with their grandparents and are willing take part in our few family traditions. I could go on but my point is this….. don’t feel sad that a child is leaving you, feel proud and happy that the child CAN leave you because you did a job that many people cannot do. You have added a competent and productive citizen to our society.

Sure, they will still experience sore wings now and then and have to come back to the nest. The fliers may have all this freedom to soar, but so do you! Without an egg to sit on or a barfed up worm to force down their throats, you can take off and fly too. A friend of mine says this is the time to “remember why you married their Dad in the first place” and to do all those things that you never got time to do….that is if we can remember what those things were (as they got older, so did we darn it).

I think it is very important to make sure the nest is not empty emotionally; just free of all that crap they accumulated over the years, while the treasures are left behind for our safekeeping. After all, no kid wants his third grade bean art project on his dorm room wall, but to us, it is a masterpiece (even if only glue blobs are left where beans once resided). We will put it in the bottom of box and ship it off to them someday, to be replaced by a grandkid’s bean art project. But in my case, that better be a LOOONNGGGG time….and any art teacher who makes bean art anyway may get a visit from Granny the Good Witch of Relevant Classroom Projects.

1 comment:

  1. My daughter and oldest child just spent her first full week at college. I have been bracing myself for this stage for a very long time, not quite sure what to expect. What am I going to feel? How hard is it going to be? How will I handle not seeing her every day? I still have two boys at home but the house is much quieter with her not here. When my husband and I had to say our good-byes my daughter told me... it wouldn't be so hard to say good-bye if I had bad parents. The reverse is true as well because we feel it wouldn't be so hard to say good bye if we had a bad kid! But really, like you said Judi, she has made this a proud and happy time because I see her going out confidently into the world. What makes it 'not hard' is they are prepared and ready. Sometimes independence is scary for parents but I always loved to see my kid's form opinions, speak their mind about things and have the courage to say no. I think it started back when she was a toddler and I didn't view those terrible two 'no's' as defiance but as her learning to be her own person and that is a wonderful thing to see! Thanks for your post.