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It’s a Bittersweet Time

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 8.20.12 AMIt’s a bittersweet time when children pack up their belongings and go away to college. Parents wave goodbye and wish they hadn’t done such a good job. They raise their children to be independent and take wings and when the kids happily leave the nests, parents cry. Tears of sadness. Tears of joy. Tears for no reason. Well, maybe only mothers cry, and not all mothers. I did.

When Husband and I took our firstborn to college, I was happy that she was going to the school that she chose. Sad that it was a four hours away. Happy that she felt confident. Sad that my little girl had grown up. As we drove home, I replayed every birthday she’d celebrated and cried that those years were gone. And then two years later, Son moved across town to go to Tennessee Tech.

I tell parents to give themselves two weeks to adjust and they’ll like the empty nest stage. It took that long for me to sleep through the night. No more 3:00 a.m. awakenings to check beds and be sure that all were home and safe and sound. When I wrapped a gift, the scissors and tape were right where I’d left them. And there were no gym bags or backpacks to stumble over in the hallway.

When my children lived at home, they did their own laundry. To me, that meant wash and dry and take the clothes to their rooms. To them, doing laundry meant put clothes in the washer and turn it on. Or dry clothes and leave them in the dryer. In my empty nest home when I opened the washer and dryer, they were empty. And the leftovers that I’d stored in the refrigerator to eat for supper were still there. The only dirty dishes in the sink were my cereal bowl and coffee cup. And there was enough milk for my cereal the next morning.

I admit that learning to parent from afar wasn’t an easy learning curve for me. For 18 years when our children walked out of the house, they told me where they were going and with whom. It took time for me to learn that no news was truly good news and to trust that I’d get a phone call when someone needed me or had something to tell me. I tried to follow my own mother’s advice: tell them you love them and don’t ask too many questions. There are some things we parents don’t want or need to know.

Finally, I discovered empty nest freedoms. Husband and I took spur-of-the-moment overnight trips. We ate only at the restaurants that that we liked. I went clothes shopping for myself. The whole house stayed cleaner and neater.

Just when I began to really like Husband’s and my new lifestyle, Daughter and Son came home for a weekend visit. Somehow, I didn’t mind finishing the laundry they started, and I cooked their favorite meals. I carefully maneuvered around their shoes and backpacks and duffle bags, knowing they wouldn’t be there for long.

And on Sunday afternoon as they left, I gave them all the food leftovers, plus the bags of groceries I’d bought just for them, kissed them good-bye, and swore that I had some allergy problems. Why else would my eyes by red and watering? Tears of sadness. Tears of joy.



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