Category Archives: empty nest

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho


With soon-to-be two daughters in college I should have seen this coming, shouldn’t I?  All of my angst as a stay-at-home mom facing the future of an empty nest has come down to this one little truth: it costs money to send kids to college.

It’s not as if we haven’t been saving for this for years or that I had not known somewhere in the back of my mind that it would be a good idea to have two incomes for two tuitions; it’s just that I seemed to move from “someday” to already five weeks into a job in a quick hurry.  I went from “I should start checking into what it would take to get on the substitute teaching call list so I can start subbing next fall” to starting to work in the local city clerk’s office two days after I casually mentioned to the Clerk that if they ever needed part-time help, they should call me.

I’m on both sides of the fence, really.  I feel both lucky that I could find something so close and congenial to my schedule and gobsmacked that I now have a time card and a boss, without having a chance to mourn the loss of my formerly self-scheduled days.  All of a sudden I had to scramble to find pants that weren’t jeans and fill out a W-4 form and there has been no chance to look back.  Now I find my days melting one into the other and my appreciation of those that have been working all this time growing exponentially.

With so many out of work in this economy, I can’t complain about any of the small annoyances associated with having to wear less comfortable clothes or be in to work by a certain time.  Instead, every time I feel myself starting to grouse about having to go to work,  I remember how very, very lucky I was to be able to stay home with my kids for so long.

I left work for my children, and now I’ve gone back for the same reason.  *whistles*

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, empty nest, Gratitude, Growth, Parenting, Self Improvement

Time For Two


My oldest chick moved to the dorm without too much fanfare at the end of this summer.  She’s doing well and seems to be integrating into campus life; she’s not a source of worry for me.  Though I miss her, I feel okay with it all.  Time will tell how each of us will react to being separated, but I am hopeful we’ll grow both closer and more independent of each other.  That’s the way life is, and a pretty good definition of parenting success.

Since she now lives two hours away from us, visits are further apart, though not non-existent.  I got the chance to drive up there by myself last month for a day of visiting, and she got to show me around and introduce me to her roommates and new habitat.  We shopped and ate, and I hunkered down in a corner of the dorm lobby and read while she went to a class.  It was good for both of us.

With the dust settling on that change, I am finding that having fewer people in the house means more time for me to spend with the two remaining chicks.  The way school day mornings work out the younger two leave at different times, not even crossing paths most days.  I get to spend breakfast time with the youngest, and then roust the next oldest in time to drive her to school.  That provides at least a few minutes to chat and make sure all is well before her day crashes in, full force.  Separate activities allow us to have separate time with both, and I’ve been making a more conscious effort to do things individually with each one.

I’m not the only one that is getting more one on one time with other family members.  The two youngest girls seem to be enjoying each other more as well, and though we still have moments of friction, they may be realizing that they only have each other now.  Their elder sister is missed, and so perhaps their bond is more appreciated.  It’s nice to see them actually sharing and spending down time together.  It wasn’t always like that.

When the five of us are back together to go up to the Inn for Thanksgiving it may feel a little strange, and I didn’t really anticipate that twist.  Our current duet will become a trio again; I hope it remains harmonious.

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Filed under Changes, Day to Day, empty nest, Family Relationships, Parenting

Alpha and Omega


This is it. My eldest daughter’s last day of public school.  How could that be? I remember so well her first day of kindergarten, and if I was organized enough I would be able to find one of the many pictures I took that morning.

I couldn’t understand the mothers who went to Tea and Tissues with the principal after teary goodbyes, reluctantly allowing their children to finally enter the classroom, some of the kids crying too.  This was a milestone!  School was what we had been preparing for and working toward for the past five years, ever since the little bundle met us.  She attended preschool for a couple of years, to gradually get her ready.  We happily helped her learn her letters and colors, so she wouldn’t go in at a disadvantage.  She was a social child, so no worries there.  The day arrived and she went to her new classroom with curiosity and a smile and I pushed her sister’s stroller home, a bounce in my step.

There have been a few rough patches between that day and this.  I have been disappointed in grades at times, but never in my child.  Teachers have been great and not so great.  Friendships have come and gone, hearts have been hurt, more lessons have been learned than were in the school curriculum.  Triumphs and tragedies; all were so important in the moment and forgotten in the blur now.

Today was a little different in tone than that day so long ago.  Instead of picking out her outfit and helping her dress, brushing her hair and assisting her as she loaded her new backpack, I stood in a quiet kitchen making the last school lunch that I ever would for her.  She breezed down the stairs and packed it up and was out the door and driving away before I could snap one picture.

Maybe my Tea and Tissues day was just delayed thirteen years.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, empty nest, Looking Back, Parenting

Mea Culpa


Today would have been my mother’s ninety-first birthday.  You would think I would be reminiscing about old times, remembering how well she took care of me whenever I was sick, calling the doctor for a house call and hovering over his shoulder in my fevered memory.  The food she spent all day making for us, or how she was a do-er; how she could get “drunk” and giddy on just a Coca-Cola, or how she lost her first husband at the very end of World War II yet was strong enough to build a different life with my father and us.

Instead, I am spending the day wishing I could apologize.  As my daughter approaches her last day of high school this week, I find myself understanding more and more about my relationship with my mom during our contentious years, discovering what she was trying to do.  Time and experience wipe the bull-headedness of youth out of the picture, and I can see her more clearly.

I used to get so frustrated, so irritated that last year before I went away to college.  She seemed to be holding even tighter to me, and I only wanted to take flight.  As my girl does the same thing, I struggle to not want to hold her to my chest for as long as I possibly can.  My mother would tell me things I already knew, give me advice I thought I didn’t need, and treat me like a child.  I fought like a toddler wanting to be put down, trying to get away, only looking forward.

Mama, I understand.  And thank you.

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Filed under empty nest, Family Relationships, Gratitude, Growth, Looking Back, Parenting, Self-realization

Reentry


The travelers will be home today, and the two bachelorettes will be back to everyday life in mere hours.  A few things picked up and put away, a spit and a polish, and we will be done and ready for the weary tourists to drop their bags in the entryway.  It’s been a relaxing, fun weekend, and though I enjoyed every moment of it, I look forward to hearing tales from the road and getting back to the whirlwind that is my full life.

The older girls are coming home from the last school trip they will take before college.  I wonder if they appreciated it in that light?  There will be other outings, with family and friends, colleagues, even jaunts for university groups if they are lucky, but this is the last band trip with friends that will so soon be scattered to the winds.  I hope it has been a fun, eventful journey that they will look back upon fondly.

A little deviation from the normal routine lets us all look at things from a different perspective and perhaps appreciate it all a bit more.  Number three and I got a sneak-peek at what life might be like in a few years, and numbers one and two got special time to spend with both their dad and high school friends – things that will be in a little shorter supply soon.

More lasts; then on to another round of firsts.

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Filed under Changes, empty nest, Excursions, Looking Ahead, Looking Back, Parenting

Say Goodnight


I don’t know quite when it began, but my oldest daughter and I hardly ever say good night to each other anymore.  If we do, it’s because every now and then I knock on her door on my way to bed to get what turns out to be an air kiss, hardly a touch.

When she was just a baby (and the first child of rather baby-ignorant people), getting her to sleep became my Holy Grail.  She was a light sleeper.  I was so sleep-deprived and exhausted that getting her to conk out for a little while was a major goal, but keeping her from waking was more like a scene from Raiders of The Lost Ark.  If she fell asleep nursing, I would slowly, carefully, lay her in her crib, inching my hands out from under her and gently covering her.  Then began the ordeal, for I couldn’t just walk out.  The floors were wood, and there were boards that creaked.  If I stepped on one she would wake up, so I left the room Indiana Jones-style, one step at a time, on a pre-discovered path that mostly avoided the squeakers and had to be negotiated lightly, putting the weight of one foot down slowly before lifting the back foot.  It must have looked comical, but I assure you: at the time it was dead serious business.

When she was a preschooler she slept much better.  Then night times became rituals of story-telling and a particular rhyme, in a call and answer style.  The favorite lullabies would turn on, hugs and kisses would be shared, and the “Sleep Tight” poem had to be exchanged.  Then she could sleep.

In elementary school she was quite active, occasionally getting splinters on her trek through her day.  She hated having us try to remove them, so we would wait until she fell asleep and go in and pluck them out.  It worked, so she must have slept very well then.

In high school she joined the ranks of teens everywhere and slept past noon, if allowed.  Staying up too late and sleeping the morning away would be the preferred schedule, but a little thing called “school” continues to get in the way.  Now, more often than not, I go to bed before my teens do.  I leave them still doing homework, because at this point I don’t operate as well on just a little sleep as I did for all those years.

I still get hugs and kisses from my middle girl.  In fact, she demands them often and to the point of irritation sometimes.  I don’t think I’ll complain anymore, though, because it occurs to me that goodnight kisses from my first girl slipped away, and I didn’t even notice it.

Maybe now she’s the one quietly traversing the quest-like path so I won’t wake up to the fact that she is moving on.

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Filed under Changes, empty nest, Family Relationships, Looking Back, Parenting

Talking To Empty Air


I was midway through a conversation with my oldest daughter before I realized she wasn’t even in the house.  How could I have considered that a “conversation”, you ask? Well, that’s the way a lot of them have been conducted lately.  Me talking up the stairs to a closed bedroom door.  She spends a lot of time that way.

But when did her leaving stop registering with me?  When did I lose touch of that?  That’s such an un-mom-like thing to do.  I’m supposed to know where my kids are at all times.  It’s hard-wired into me.  She may have told me she was heading to a friend’s house earlier, but I just don’t have that radar anymore to know when she goes out that door.

When she was a toddler, she escaped like that just once.  I was near the door too, carrying groceries in, I think, when I saw her tiny body go shooting down the sidewalk at full steam.  She drifted out into the street and my heart simply stopped.  I dropped what I had in my hands and pounded after her, running perhaps the fastest I ever have, to scoop her up in my arms and dash to the other side.  Time stopped when we got there, and we both froze, my two-year old clutched to my chest.  I was surging on adrenaline, and she was confused about why I had acted that way.  I was just amazed that there really had been no danger, there were no cars on the quiet street.  But I could not have reacted any differently.

That was the last time I let myself be so out of touch with where, in relation to the house, my children were.  Until now, of course, when she is making her move away from the family.  It could be that I finally feel easier about her being able to take care of herself, or that I know she is a responsible and level-headed person.  It could be that she takes her independence a bit for granted and acts in a far more autonomous manner these days. Or it just could be the natural way of things as your chicks get ready to leave the nest.

Well, it could be my age making me forget things, too.  But we won’t mention that.

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Filed under Changes, empty nest, Family Relationships, Looking Ahead, Looking Back, Parenting