Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fluffing Up the Empty Nest

Two weeks ago we drove our youngest child, Jonathan, to college in Kansas. Our oldest, Elisabeth, returned to her campus last week. We are now, officially, empty nesters.

The week Elisabeth returned to school, my friend Amy had a baby. In a congratulatory email I wrote her this:
I want one. Well... maybe not. I had one once, no, I had two. They never last. You get all used to them snuggly and cuddly and everything about them is wonderful. They have a terrible habit of growing, though. When they grow they change, and every stage is as fun and fabulous as the one before. They never stop the growing part. The body stops growing so fast, but their insides get bigger and bigger until their eyes can’t contain it all. Before long your house isn’t big enough for them and their gigantic world view. They leave the nest and take all the love you gave them in their memory. They return, but they’re not yours anymore. That’s when you realize they were never yours to begin with.
Amy's journey as a mother is just beginning, while mine is taking a new path. Mothers and fathers never stop being parents, but the new path marks changes in the parent/child relationship. I noticed the first time my daughter came home from college for the summer that she was so much more independent, confident, self-motivated. Our relationship changed. She is still my daughter, but she's also my friend.

Jonathan went to college much further away than his sister did. I keep up with him through phone calls and emails. I can already sense the maturity coming upon him. He won't be home until Christmas and I'm already counting the days. But until then, I'm enjoying the peace and quiet of my empty nest.


Lynn Sinclair said...

"They never last."

I love that line, Carolyn.

Swanny said...

"They never stop the growing part. The body stops growing so fast, but their insides get bigger and bigger until their eyes can't contain it all. Before long your house isn't big enough for them and their gigantic world view."

This is so beautifully said Carloyn.

On the day I had my first child, I knew instinctively that the way I love would change forever... and now that all of my little clucks are gone, I know that the way I grieve has also taken a turn; forever. The broken heart swells though and therefore holds more water.


Carolyn Burns Bass said...

Lynn~ I mulled over this line in reverse while writing THE SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAUGHTER, looking at myself as a child through my mother's eyes.

Swanny~ Your comment is the perfect postscript to what I wrote. Thank you for adding it. My heart has swollen much through the years and swell some more it will.

Third Mom said...

I stumbled onto your blog today from a google search on "empty nest," because I've been struggling with this these past weeks. I'm glad I found this post, as I see now I'm not alone in my thoughts. We brought our son to UVA in August, although we still have a daughter in high school. But knowing that the nest will soon truly be empty is a little hard to face.

Thank you.

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

Third Mom~ The next few years are critical for you. I prepared myself somewhat by getting involved in something that was essentially my own--writing. Whether it's reaching out to others through your fabulous blog or developing other interests to nourish your spirit, I can tell you will be more than fine.

Rebecca del Rio said...

Lovely description of "growing up." But I'm not surprised, you're a lovely writer.
Abrazos, R.

Julee Ann said...

Thank you for your lovely words about me fighting off Autumn. In actuality, I love the seasons and don't know if I could live without them.

I can't talk about E.N.--see I can't even type the words--although your post was extremely moving.
Give me a couple of weeks:)

Gerald said...

My boys are years away from moving out... heck, I still have all the teenage years to go through.

Your post made me miss them already.

Anonymous said...

You know...Even if your son is a thousand miles away in Kansas, at some podunk town where even starbucks doesn't seem to be, there are so many (good and bad) memories that you'll always have even when he goes on to follow his dreams, and he'll have those also. These memories will carry you on until you do get to see your son again. So in a sense, you'll never be far from each other, actually, you could't be closer. And by the looks of it, you seem to be developing new relationships (although not always human haha), and I'm sure your son will enjoy those relationships also.