Saying goodbye to my daughter, Amy, brought up memories of my going off to college. I also felt infused with a sense of loss in the pit of my stomach. I ached for my girl.
I had to remind myself it was a different experience when I left for college, because I knew I would probably not return home for much more than the occasional visit for holidays and assorted life passages.
I took solace in the thought that this would be different for my girl. Amy wanted to come home–-not just for her immediate family, but for her many friends. That was all good. And there was still Max at home. Two more years to go before his send off, two more years before my nest would be empty. I still had my motherhood role firmly intact.
Those two years were filled with transferring to a private school that would be suitable for his learning style, and then of course there was the preparation for college, college visits, college applications and prayers to the college gods.
One month ago today, my husband Martin and I took our son to college, where he began his freshman year learning about music and business management.
I dutifully set up Max’s half of his dorm room and made his bed cozy. My husband set up his computer and printer and then off we went to dinner. In the morning there was a farewell breakfast, after which the parents received their marching orders. “Say your goodbyes now. The children are beginning their adventure program.”
Panic set in. I promised myself I would not cry. I couldn’t control my breathing. All these years of yoga and meditation were for naught. I was a ball of mush.
Sunglasses did not disguise the tears streaming down my face. I hugged my 6’5” baby boy and said farewell.
I could not bare to leave the campus without some tangible that would connect me with Max. I bought orange plaid flannel pajamas with the official college logo. I thought pjs would be comfortable and practical.
Six hours I cried – at times uncontrollably – in the car as my husband drove back to Boston. My sobs gave little space for Martin’s own feelings to emerge around our new loss. No more babies. Our little nest was empty–with the exception of Kooper, our Portuguese Water dog.
When we finally arrived back home, all was eerily quiet. Kooper knew something was different and didn’t go through his usual barking ritual as we approached the door.
I cried myself to sleep that night. In the middle of the night I awoke and crept into Max’s room smelling him in his blankets and mattress. It lolled me to a deep sleep.
Several months later I still feel pangs of sadness when I walk into my children’s very quiet, very neat empty rooms.
Since then I have rediscovered writing as an important mode of self-expression, which has led to many wonderful opportunities. When the kids come home my heart sings.
Comment back to me: What is your experience with your (going to be) empty nest?
2 thoughts on “My Empty Nest”
Hi Dr. Randy,
My nest is not quite empty yet, but probably will be soon. I have a 29 yr old son (married 4-2008), a 23 yr old daughter (engaged 4-2009, graduated college May 2009, married July 2009), and a 19 year old who graduated High school May2009 and commuting to college. I am having a very difficult time adjusting to the lonliness and very quiet house. My son had moved out in 2004 and I seem to do okay with that since I still had the two girls home, but now since my middle daughter got married and my youngest is going to school and working, I feel totally lost and very unmotivated. I really loved being here with the two girls and just the camaraderie within the house. I cry alot about their absense and I guess just miss all the laughter and joy that was in the house. I look back to last year at this time and how happy I was and never imagined I could be so low within a year. Thank you.
Sounds to me like you did a wonderful job as a mother. You gave your children their roots and now wings to fly. You still have your youngest daughter at home, so enjoy every moment… You are going through a tough transition. It behooves you to cultivate some interests and friendships that you enjoy during this time. I suspect you will have joyous moments together with you children again, but under different circumstances. These years can be awesome for you once you get over the hump. I find that the more I immerse myself in activities and relationships I enjoy, the happier I am.