By Sheryl Lilly Pidgeon
“Selfhood begins with a walking away, and love is proved in the letting go.” – Cecil Day-Lewis
I am an Empty Nester. There, I said it. The Pidgeon kids have all flown the coop and gone off to college boom, boom, boom. I officially have a junior, a sophomore and, as of last month, a freshman. For years, I’ve been listening to friends who’ve survived “the change,” and of course I have been privy to numerous articles from experts on this very topic on the pages of this magazine. But, this is personal. No amount of planning could actually prepare me for experiencing it firsthand, and I find myself wondering, “Where did the time go?”
Dropping my youngest off at college last month made the “emptiness” official. I am no longer the hands-on mom I’ve been for 21 years, dealing with the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting like packing lunches, attending school events, and hosting dinners and sleepovers for a gaggle of teens. While I am coping with the physical separation, I am also incredibly excited for each of my chicks to have left the nest, and I’m so proud of their ability, desire and fortitude to fly head-on into whatever comes next.
True to each of my children’s personalities, they each experienced leaving the nest in their own way. And, since I know them almost as well as they know themselves, I was not surprised by their reactions, but they may have been surprised by mine! While I was wistful and full of last-minute advice, I willed myself not to cry. (This from the girl who gets misty-eyed at a Maxwell House commercial.)
Why did I intentionally bid farewell to my kids dry-eyed?
1) I wanted them to know they were fine.
2) I wanted them to know I’d be fine.
If I were to fall apart, that might cause them to think they bear the responsibility for my sadness and could compromise the possibility of them finding happiness and independence.
Understandably, I know less about my children’s daily lives – where they are and what they’re doing at any given moment, but I won’t allow myself to share my anxiety with them. I can’t call or drop in whenever I feel like it. I have to give them the space to become independent and to call home or come visit because they want to – not to appease me. I want them to ask my opinion because they respect my input, not because I said so. I want them to spread their wings, so they can explore their passions and discover their purpose in the world.
So, yes, I am discovering my new day-to-day life in an empty nest. I am working hard to find the balance between letting my kids know they are deeply missed while not passing the weight of my sadness on to them. I don’t want to burden them with my apprehension, I won’t clip their wings to keep them from flying too high or in a different direction than my husband and I expected, and I am comforted knowing that I have sent my children on their way fully prepared to soar.
LIVE. LEARN. LAUGH. REPEAT.
Sheryl Lilly Pidgeon
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