The Emptying Nest...When Your Kids are Growing Up and Moving Out
People talk all the time about the "Empty Nest Syndrome", but no one talks about the "Emptying Nest Syndrome". As a parent of 3 teens, I am here to say this in itself is a hard period to go through. Especially if you enjoyed being a mother or father, and spending time with your children.The "Emptying Nest Syndrome" is when your children are still with you but are leaving, one by one, and some are preparing to move out...to go off to college, to get their first apartment, etc. The hardest part is that you know the Empty Nest stage of your life will be here soon, and so the separation begins.
I have a 20-year-old son and 17-year-old twin daughters. When my oldest moved out a few years back, it was tough. I had had to ask him to leave as he was thinking he was beyond the stage of following house rules, etc. once he hit the age of 18. Too many stressful, (and sometimes loud) arguments later, the decision was made that he would find a place of his own. We had been very close while he was growing up. He was my first born, so while I knew the move was necessary, it still wasn't easy. For the first week after he moved out, and in with a friend, tears flooded my eyes at the grocery store when I saw items I knew he liked and I would normally have bought for him to have in the house. I was sad inside that he wouldn't be there with a funny comment to me or his sisters. But things were more peaceful, so after awhile, the peaceful home was a balm for the space he left behind.
Now, my girls are 17 and will be moving onto college in the Fall. "Senioritis" has hit one very badly, and although we used to be buddies, it's not always that way now. She is ready to move on, to a life of semi-independence at college. We butt heads a lot, and she never thinks I do anything right. I try to have patience, but it's not always easy. I remember when I went off to college, I saw my parents in a whole new light and appreciated them much more than I had when I lived with them. I hope that she has that realization as well someday after she moves on. I remind myself of the sweet and always loving child she used to be. But that in itself is very painful.
Motherhood was always so very important to me. Being a mom completed me, and when my children were babies and were pre-school age, I was never as happy as when I was with them...reading to them, taking them to museums, going on hikes in the woods together. It was a blissful state for me. Once they entered elementary school, things started to change. Their peers became pretty important and had more influence on them than I cared for, especially in some cases. Maybe that was actually the first stage of the Emptying Nest. Then they moved onto high school, and things really began to change. I saw them becoming more independent, and definitely not needing me as much. Now that the youngest 2 will be moving on in less than a year, and my nest will be empty of children, I find myself wishing for more time for the good stuff, and rehashing the parenting mistakes I have made. I wish we could go back to the before school years so I could hug them more, read them more stories around a campfire, bake more cookies with them, take them to the beach again and let them jump in the waves.
After a few months of this nostalgia, and actual sadness, I realized I had to snap out of it, or I would miss the good times we still have left. And I remind myself that although the memories we made in the past are precious, there will be good times to come. So, I took my daughter to a movie that we had both wanted to see. We shared popcorn and soda and a wonderful memory. I took my other daughter out for ice cream at her favorite ice cream shop on a Friday night, just the two of us so we could catch up on things in a setting we both enjoy. In April, one of my daughters and I are going on a college road trip to Pennsylvania to check out 3 colleges that we haven't had a chance to see yet, so she can make her final college decision by the required deadline of May 1st. I am realizing that although the days when they were young are gone, there will be plenty of time to make wonderful memories in the future, with my children as young adults, as spouses when we will add more family members, and hopefully as parents, so I will have grandchildren to enjoy. And all that is something pleasant to look forward to. I am concentrating on that during this emptying nest phase so that rather than being sad for memories of the past, I can be looking forward to our experiences in the future.
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