Trying to Build a Not-So-Empty Nest
This sharing hits home in my heart more than any other story has in quite a while. For any of you that have a child graduating, leaving the home, or if you are becoming empty nesters for the first time, reading this story will allow you to feel that you are in good company. The first of my three children is graduating from high school next week. Wow, talk about hitting me like a ton of bricks. This is the natural order of things and yet where did the time go? My heart is as open and vulnerable as it was the day he was born. My emotions are all over the place – to a point that sometimes I don’t know what I am feeling in each moment. At the same time I am overjoyed for my son and I am anxiously awaiting the future before him. Thank you Catherine for your vulnerability and strength. I feel connected, supported and united with all moms in this time of transition in our lives.
Anyone who has ever become a parent knows there is plenty to do to prepare for the arrival of a newborn child. It begins with preparing a room, a crib, a baby-proofed home, accumulating a layette, clothing, diapers, classes and so much more on a seemingly endless to-do list. This has come to known as “nesting.” It is a natural instinct that swoops down upon us from the time we know we have conceived up until the baby has been delivered. There are a plethora of books on how to prepare, all to let you know what to expect when you are expecting.
I could go on and on about how little I was prepared regardless of how much reading I did, how many classes I attended and how much advice I was given. However, that’s another story. This story is how unprepared I am to be what is known as the “empty nester.”
Where are the books? How do I prepare for this?
Over the years, our family has diminished in size. My stepson had already left for college when my husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. We went from five to four. Then my husband passed away (along with one of the dogs) and we were down to three of us. Four years later, my son Alex left for school in California. That was a huge transition, but I still had my Caroline at home and we became two peas in a pod – a very tight-knit, very comfortable pod. We grew closer and closer, and although we missed Alex tremendously, our mother-daughter bond had an opportunity to form like no other. With the absence of any male figure in our home, we had become known to those closest to us as the “Gilmore Girls,” not to be confused with the Golden Girls, which is where I may be headed to next.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still the mother, and she is still the teenager, and at times those two titles don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye, which means I am still doing my job. However, Caroline has become not only my daughter, she has been my roommate; my friend. She is my movie partner, dining partner, lunch date and my shopping buddy. Perhaps to some, that seems somewhat unhealthy. To me, it has been the best experience I think a mother could ask for. Add to that the fact that I have a 20-year-old son who is thriving and happy and healthy, and what more could a girl want?
The second official breakdown in my life hit me like a ton of bricks a few days ago while sifting through photos for a project I was doing. Everyone tells you it goes by so fast. I never understood the point of that saying. Of course it did. They are supposed to grow up. And the more grown up they became, the closer we all had grown. However, with graduation creeping up and college decision making being mulled over, I am basically on the verge of tears 24/7.
I encouraged my children to go out of state from day one. I want them to see more of the country than our Arizona home. That, for some reason, was really important to me. I have gotten my wish, and I am happy for that – very, very happy. This is what is supposed to happen. They grow up and they leave the nest.
So now what? What happens to me?
Well, here’s what happens to me. I no longer hide behind the role of Caroline’s and Alex’s mother. I will have to figure out what the next path will be. Who do I want to become? Where do I want to live? What can I do to enhance the lives of others while my children persevere and enhance their own?
These are the streams of questions that run through my mind all day long. I am waiting for the answers to come. No rush. Just more tissues, please!catherine-graves.com