There are many aspects of parenting that are joyful beyond belief, and many that cause untold anxiety issues. Empty nesting, I would have to say falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. As a mother and step-mother of 5 ranging in ages from 9 to 22, we have the full gamut of events, from losing their first teeth, getting their first glasses, and hitting puberty, all the way to getting their first apartments, graduating college, starting college, and being on-call for military service.
The oldest 3 are not my biological babies, but I've raised them since they were 6, 8 & 11. For all intents and purposes, they are mine. Their biological mother has even told them to view me as the mom and her as a 'friend.' I'll not post my thoughts on that topic, as that is a whole separate wandering of my minds.
The oldest has not lived at home for the last 3 years. He moved in with some friends at the same time that my mother moved in with us after my father died. Since there were still 7 people in our house, and he came around regularly, I did not face those growing pains then. Even when he went off to college, he was only 3 hours away. In Michigan, and in a family of travelers, 3 hours is little more than a jaunt. If something were to happen, I could be there in reasonable time. And if it were an emergency, that 3 hours became 2 (with the aid of a lead foot and a radar detector). Sometimes we get there unnoticed by authorities. Others, we were not so lucky. But the ticket was worth it if I got to my child fast. I'm wandering...
Then he joined the National Guard and left for basic training. 6 & 8 states away, yet I still did not feel the absence. Of course, I cried every time I dropped him off at school, and I cried when he left for basics. But, he never saw that. I held myself together until he was gone.
Back in May, he moved to Virginia. This time, he saw me cry. He laughed. Children. LOL. He lives about 14 hours away, which is much more than a good stretch of the legs, and not a trip to be made in 1 or even 2 days. He has invited his oldest sister to move down there with him, where he can help her learn to live on her own without having instant culture shock right away. So, we have spent the last 3 months sorting, packing, and deciding what goes and what stays.
I only post this online because I have said as much to my children, but this time, I am almost more nerved up than my daughter. I am beyond nerved up, really. I am terrified. If something happens, I can't be there in a short time to help them figure out how to fix the problem, pick up the pieces and move on. Yes, I'm only a phone call away. And, the joke at our house is that the kids all have to move out before they find us worthy of conversation. So, I know I'll hear from them all the time. I actually expect to hear from E nearly daily for at least the first 2 weeks.
Still, she has never worked outside the house. She's never been very far away from the parental figures. The girl is almost 21 and hasn't even had a first date.
Terrified doesn't even skim the tip of my and her emotional icebergs.
K, #3, moved in with her boyfriend the very night of graduation. The superintendent's annual graduation joke involves seeing suitcases on parents porches on the way to the ceremony. Well, they weren't on the porch, but they were packed. Granted, in the first 2 weeks after she moved out, we knew where she was every minute of every day, and we'd seen and spoken to her more than the entire preceding year. She laughs when I say that, but it's sadly true.
What really drove home the empty nesting sadness was a phone call from J. He'd been injured at work and didn't realize how worker's compensation worked, so he was really flipping out about the bills and whether he would even have an apartment for his sister to live in when we move her down there in a few weeks. That thought spiraled him into many other sad thoughts, and the major fear of failure surfaced hard and fast. By the time I got off the phone, hopefully having re-encouraged him and set him up with fresh ideas how to go forward, I sat down ready to bawl.
I wanted so much to crawl through the phone and wrap my 22-year-old child so tightly in my arms, and just kiss the problem to make it go away. I wanted to reassure him that Mom would take care of everything, and not to worry. But, I couldn't do that, even if he sat in my own living room to tell me his woes. I couldn't be the superwoman I've been for the last almost 12 years. It's no longer my place to fix his problems.
I have to let my children spread their wings and fly, and just pray that we've taught them enough to soar on the up draft, fight the down draft, and store any unused energy for the next fight. It's humbling, to say the least.
I've not slept well in the last few weeks. Partly due to the anxiety of moving E down with J. Partly due to this thudding realization of powerlessness over my babies' fates. Mostly due to the lack of trust in myself at having done a good enough job of mothering to prepare them for the real world.
I faced 2 separate amniocenteses within 1 week with less trepidation than I feel now.
Let's face it. Mom is always the boss. And the boss's job sucks.
Still, as each hurdle is passed, either successfully, or not so much, we get to rejoice that our children at least tried. Even if they fall on their face, they tried. They didn't let their fears hold them back. And that means we did something right.
So, hopefully, once we have E and J settled into their apartment, and I make the long drive home alone... Hopefully, I can rest my head and sleep.
At least until the next phone call. :)
Blessings to all the bosses out there; you need it.
It's All in the Details
9 months ago