Enrolled in Empty Nesting 102
Note the title of this piece is not Empty Nesting 101. That's because last year at this time I wrote my first piece on empty nesting when our youngest child joined her brother and moved off to college at the University of Kansas. So this is the second time I have done this, and no, watching them recently leave for college wasn't easier the second time around.
Even though their time at home this summer was a mere twelve weeks, I immediately, upon their arrival home, resumed the role of the hands-on mom; neatly folding their clothes and putting them away, slipping them a twenty every now and then to buy gas, making their favorite foods and calling in their prescription refills when needed. Forget the fact that they were old enough to vote, sign a lease, go on vacation alone and die for their country. I was their mom. They needed me ... didn't they?
My answer to that question changed almost daily. For instance, my daughter definitely didn't need me on matters of working, studying, or filling her leisure time. But if she needed health advice or a gift idea for Father's Day, I topped her list of experts. And after my son firmly informed me he didn't need my help with his class selection for fall, he did come to me for advice on housing and roommate options.
Like most moms, I lived for those moments when they needed my help or sought my counsel. I was the glue -- a matriarch in the truest sense of the word -- the Rose Kennedy of the McFarlane clan.
Then, in a twist only real life can provide, I became the needy one. During the last few weeks of summer vacation, I was faced with major shoulder surgery. No fair, I cried inwardly. After all, my husband was still recovering from an accident he sustained a year ago. I had several unfinished writing projects on my desk. My sister was depending on me to help her tend to our aged mother. Plans were in full swing for our oldest daughter's Dec. 1 wedding. What was I to do?
The answer came in the form of two crazy, devil-may-care, fun college kids, who saw my needs and stepped in to meet them. They cooked food, did the laundry, put out the trash, bought the groceries, checked the mail, changed light bulbs and more. And all the while, they managed their own jobs and summer classes. Most importantly, they sat by me. They watched movies with me, brought me Cokes, and when I got better, drove me places. They were the glue.
I used to worry that I had not prepared my kids well enough for life away from home. What if they weren't independent enough? What if they didn't have the organizational skills required to make it in the real world? What if they didn't have a strong enough work ethic? What if ...
And, as is usually the case, my worries were unfounded. Those people who swim around in my memories as the giggling little knuckleheads, the 24-7 tag-alongs, the people who filled my days with joy and, at the same time, my head with grey hairs have evolved into a couple of responsible, productive, and compassionate young adults. Sure, they still need me, just as much as I apparently need them. And it is through this new evidence of devoted reciprocity that we have taken our relationship to the next level; family, in the truest sense of the word. So my kids have left me with a nest that is empty again. I wouldn't have it any other way. But I am left with a heart that is full.