The Empty Nest

It’s summer. My time is a little less restricted than it usually is because a lot of my clients are away on vacation with their children. I’m spending my free office hours throwing away papers that have accumulated during the past nine or ten months. Earlier in the year, making a decision about throwing these papers away seemed too Herculean a task. Now, they’re just papers and I wonder why I was keeping them and why it was so hard to think about throwing them away earlier. I do this every year though. It’s so predictable that now I laugh at the way I repeat these annual actions.

Summer brings with it familiar tasks like these. But while this summer is similar to previous ones for me, it’s also vastly different because just last week my son, my youngest, graduated from High School. So this summer marks the beginning of a short road to the empty nest.

I know from my friends that this can be a wonderful thing. Between our daughter and son, my husband and I have spent over two decades changing dirty diapers, running kids to the doctor, going to parent-teacher conferences, soothing fears, juggling schedules, teaching, guiding, worrying. Not that the worrying stops of course, but it lessens somewhat.

Our friends tell us that the house will be quieter, calmer. They say that we’ll have more time for ourselves and for our marriage. They assert that the overwhelming sense of responsibility lessens and we’ll relax more. They claim that there’s considerable more freedom.

I’ve already tasted an increasing sense of freedom as my son has become more and more independent in his journey toward adulthood and it is nice. And quite frankly, feeling less responsible for someone besides me will be a relief.

But … for every dirty diaper there was an unsolicited hug. And there’s nothing quite like the arms of a toddler wrapped around your neck or the smell of freshly washed hair and baby skin. All of the childhood illnesses were erased by hundreds of days of good health and bright smiles. Every tear was overshadowed by vast amounts of laughter at the most nonsensical silly things. Getting up in the middle of the night was countered tenfold by the times I heard “I love you Mommy.”

My children taught me to play in the waves on the beach and not be afraid of jellyfish. They encouraged me to ride roller coasters. They reinvigorated my love of learning and exploration. They taught me to laugh at myself. They inspired me to be adventurous, to laugh more, to love more, to take more risks.

I know there are advantages to having an empty nest. And part of me is curious if, after I’ve become accustomed to it, I’ll question why I didn’t look forward to it in the first place. Maybe, like the papers on my desk, I’ll laugh about how tightly I held on to the familiar and in the end, how it wasn’t such a big deal to let go after all.

I guess that could happen. But, somehow, I doubt it. Because I loved parenting. Really, really loved it. I’ve learned more from my children than I ever taught them, been lead by them more than I’ve guided them and been inspired by them in ways both great and small every day since my first child was born.

So yes, there will be more time, less worry, more freedom. But damn, I am really going to miss having them around.