My mom came to visit recently, and as always, I fought the urge to crawl right into her lap and crush her aging bones. I've never lost the desire to be mothered. And, since my daughter came into my life, I've never yet and doubt I ever will lose the desire to mother her.
My daughter will be six next month. She is wrapping up kindergarten. Her legs are long and lanky; her hair long ago lost its baby curl. I hold her baby photos up next to her current photos and note how her face has changed and not changed. Her face is longer, but her dimple and eyes and pointed chin remain the same, testaments to her father's gene pool. Her nose and the rounding of her shoulders look just like mine. I hold the photos up and wonder what she will look like when she's eighteen, and spring brings her imminent departure from this house we share.
I remind myself to cherish this time we have together whenever I get frustrated with her. As I'm picking her socks off the floor, I often catch myself feeling amazed at how small they are for someone with such a huge presence in my life. It is a blessing and a curse, this gift I seem to have for observing time while I'm still in it, like realizing you're asleep in the middle of a dream. From time to time, I lie on her bed long after she has fallen asleep in the nook of my arm, book across my chest, and stare at the walls wondering how she will remember this room, this childhood. Wondering how I will remember it.
People have rudely asked me before what I will do on holidays if my only child doesn't come home. I often answer that my husband and I will drown our sorrows on a beach somewhere in the Keys if we find ourselves otherwise unoccupied. I don't think it matters how many kids you have -- the absence of any child is always going to be an absence. Perhaps it is my natural tendency toward the melancholy, but yes, my daughter is five, and I already think about how much I will miss her when she is gone.
Melisa at Surburban Scrawl writes of her soon-to-be-college-freshman son's imminent departure:
When I start to feel sad though, I remind myself that children aren't meant to stay with their parents forever. They are meant to leave home and start their own lives, cutting the cord that binds us, and our parental reward is seeing them succeed without our constant assistance.
It's true. One of the ironies of parenthood is success rewarded by leave-taking.
Brigindo at Dirt and Rocks has struggled with Empty Nest syndrome since her son left home:
The two years prior to him leaving and the two years since he’s been gone have been a nonstop balancing act. I have balanced my desire to hold on with his need to leave; I’ve balanced being there when he needs me with evaporating when he doesn’t; and I have balanced teaching and pushing him with letting him figure things out his own way and in his own time. It has not been easy. It has not been fun. And I know it is not yet over, but it is better.
Empty nesters often refer to this period in their lives as a new chapter, but some habits are hard to break and perhaps are never broken.
Jenny at Writing Without Periods captures what I will look forward to after my baby duck has flown away:
And I've also come to realize that they might not even notice all the little things I do to prepare for their homecoming. That's okay. I think the ritual is more for me than for them, anyway. It serves some instinctual need inherent in mothers--it doesn't matter if you're a human being, a bird, or a bear, you prepare for the arrival of your offspring.
Are you an empty nester? Do you fear the day your kids will leave home, or are you looking forward to time spent on your own interests?
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