The empty nest syndrome refers to the time when children leave home to forge a new life on their own as young adults. Some parents view this time as celebratory. Their children are launched and they can go back to being a couple and continue with their own lives. Some parents view it with dread. Their entire lives for two plus decades have been dedicated to their children’s needs and now they feel lost. Most parents probably feel a bit of both because it is time to forge a new life for themselves however happy they might feel for their children.
I think we fall into that middle category. We are about to become empty nesters for the second time. The first time our youngest left for college so in many ways we were still parenting her as she navigated the educational system and independence. Circumstance and economics brought her back home for a year and a half but now she is launching into her professional life and I suspect this time she is out for good.
Our son left home for college a decade ago and continued to stay on his own and make a very happy and successful life for himself. This gives me so much peace and gratification. But I am surprised at the mixed feelings I have for our daughter. Certainly the timing is right for her and she is ready to go, all the stars have aligned and it’s time. Yet I abruptly realized the days of her in our home are numbered. Suddenly I want to do things I have not done for years. Fold her clothes, make her lunch, tuck her into bed at night. Grab a hold of her as she rushes into her future and hang on tight. The smell of her perfume reminds me she is all grown up now but that little girl who clung to me so many times is just visible at the corner of my eye.
I’ve often wondered about that momma bird when her chicks first fly from the nest. Does she close her eyes and hope for the best? Does she nudge them ever so gently until they jump to either soar or crash to the ground? Or does she watch every step with bated breath until that baby bird flies off on her own? I think that’s what I would do. I would watch until I couldn’t see them anymore. And then I would watch some more. I send little pieces of my heart out into the world with them so they will know how loved and cherished they are.
It’s the time of year when many of my friends and acquaintances are experiencing the same thing. Children are leaving for college or jobs or adventures on their own. September has always represented new beginnings for me, hopeful things, starting over. This September will also be an ending for me. All the joy and happiness I feel for my chicks does not negate the bittersweet feelings I have. Their rooms are still next to mine, their beds are still here. This will always be their home. But they are making new homes and that is how it should be.
I get the courage of that momma bird and I admire it a lot. I only hope my own will not fail me as I watch my little bird fly into her very bright future.