By now most of us with college aged “adult” children are back to our empty nest.
This past holiday season was my first return-home-for-first-long-break experience.
I am a newbie in the post-parenting-everyday universe. For the first time since the sperm hit the egg, I do not worry myself with what he’s eaten or how much he’s slept. Or, where he is for that matter. At least the concern isn’t ever present anymore.
“19 years of active parenting, of constant mental and emotional demands gone”
19 years of active parenting, of constant mental and emotional demands gone. Yes, kinda just like that. One day we’re helping them pack, making them a sandwich, and the next we don’t even know if they brushed their teeth.
If I have to find a bright spot, the initial transition to my empty nest was overshadowed by a serious injury. A skydiving accident put me out of the parenting game for a few months. I was so overwhelmed and preoccupied with recovering and healing that my curiosity over whether my son showered or slept disappeared (at least temporarily) – along with him. Out the door.
I was surprised to find that I easily and quickly found a new rhythm to my life. My mornings begin before day break. They are quiet and productive. My evenings, may or may not, include a dinner prep and my bedtime is early.
The removal of parenting activities and the constant guidance that prevailed and surreptitiously took over my life for 19 plus years allowed for me to slow down. In some ways it feels like the first time in forever where I can pause. The transition, an opportunity for more self-reflection and self-care.
For the most part, I like my empty nest. Not going to lie though, when I read Lisa Michell’s article “Why It’s Normal To Experience Grief And Happiness Simultaneously”, I wept. I was overcome with the revelation that while I am overjoyed and deliriously proud of his level of adulting, I am simultaneously and equally gutted by how much I miss him.
The Yin and Yang of it all….
“So how does a young adult-lite, being left to their own devices for three months, integrate to the-home he no longer resides full-time?”
But here’s the deal – they aren’t really gone are they?
The university system, while uber expensive, doesn’t really hold on to them for that long. Sometime in December they kick them out of their dorm room prison cell (man those rooms are small) and send them back to where they came from.
So how does a young adult-lite, being left to their own devices for three months, integrate to the-home he no longer resides full-time?
Turns out there’s no real integration. At least that’s not what happened for us. Prior to his arrival I considered all the ways to handle the extended holiday visit. In the end, I didn’t handle anything at all. The days and weeks unfolded before me.
Some moments my heart would quietly burst open as I walked by his closed bedroom door, knowing he was sleeping soundly under my roof. Other moments my mouth would loudly burst open, as I walked by his closed bedroom door frustrated he was wasting the day away – sleeping.
I can only surmise my son juggled the best he could as well. From working diligently to fill his pent-up demand for time with his high school friends to squeezing in and negotiating family obligations in a finite number of days. I suspect the just like that re-insertion of parental demands smarted a bit as well. After several months with minimal motivational speeches (nagging), I can only imagine the dislike for imposed constraints (no matter how basic).
So how empty is my nest….really? Turns out not so empty. May is on the horizon and soon I get to experience my first home for the summer adventure.