Dear brand new Empty Nesters,
This is for you. I have been in your shoes, and I have some observations to share.
You did everything you were supposed to do. You bought those stupid extra long sheets and brand new matching towels and facecloths. You naively packed a broom and a little vaccuum, along with a supply of vitamins, ibuprofin and Tums.
Maybe you opened up a student checking account. You put some equity onto one of those swipe cards so your child can buy a sandwich, some coffee, toothpaste.
You packed up the van and took the long drive, placed your temporary parking pass in your windshield and dragged 24 boxes of “essentials” up the three floors to the dorm room.
You met the roomates and their parents, helped your child to put some things in the tiny crevasse that passes for a “closet”, and then stood there awkwardly for a few minutes.
Now its time to go.
Its time to put your arms around your baby, kiss her cheek and tell her that you are proud of her. Tell her to have fun, then indulge yourself in one more “be careful!” before you square your shoulders and walk out of that room.
Well meaning friends will tell you that you should feel proud right now. Reassure them that you are. They will tell you that this is the way life is supposed to go. “Kids have to grow up!”, they will say, “Its a vital step!” Nod your head and agree with them. You know this already!
Family members will attempt to make you feel better by saying, “Oh, don’t worry!!! Hahaha! They always come back!” Just smile. Look grateful.
Then get into your car, put her head on your arms and let yourself grieve.
Tell yourself what you know and must sadly accept.
You are saying goodbye to the baby that you raised. You are leaving those Mommy times behind you forever. Your little one has done what little ones inevitably do; she has grown up. You can’t stop that, and you can’t pretend that it isn’t a loss.
Give yourself time to curl up under a blanket and just cry. Cry for the first days of school and the birthday parties and the goldfish crackers and the tiny socks in the hamper. Cry for the warm little hand resting on your cheek and for the feel of your palm on a fevered brow. Cry for the good night kisses and the cuddles and the need for you when a nightmare strikes.
Give in to the need to look away when toddlers and their mommies walk past. Its OK. Allow yourself to skip the baby aisle at the grocery store for now, knowing that the smell of powder will make you weepy. Turn your head when baby commercials come on TV.
Hug the dog, and talk to her as if she’s a child. Cry when you wake up in the night because you think you hear your child calling you. Cry when you wake up in the night because it is too quiet now.
You did everything you had to do. You were brave and unselfish and you let your child go.
Now grieve for awhile, and admit that life will never be the same.
Then slowly, slowly lift your head and look to the future. Look to your new life, and your new adventures. Look ahead and see how sweet it will be to have this wonderful adult in your life, and how exciting it will be to watch her life unfold.
Chin up, Susy! We love you!