There are people who love their empty nest. I’m just not one of them. I had my kids in a cluster. When our youngest daughter was born, my oldest daughter was five and a half, and she had a two-year-old and four-year-old brother – I’ve done the math and it doesn’t make much sense to me either. So we had babies, and toddlers, and the easier years of grade school-ers it seems now (only now) and then Holy Cow Batman, a house brimming with teenagers – loud (or disturbingly quiet), emotional, angst-y, experimental, lovelorn, sneaky, wonderful adolescences – followed by, because they left in a cluster, too – quiet. Just me and their dad, with all the varied interests we always had and time to pursue them, inside that quiet. I didn’t like it one bit, and he wasn’t so crazy about it either. We’re people-people and our people were gone. We didn’t necessarily miss driving them places, or their taking our cars, I couldn’t honestly say I missed cooking for them and grocery shopping for them – I mean, seriously, that was a ton of work and my cooking got less creative, not more, over the two decades, while the kids all swung towards that annoying health conscious fare.
No, I just liked them moving around the house, someone to shout out to from my office to the kitchen table. When their dad worked long hours there was always someone to meet me on a patio (free food – why wouldn’t they?). Their dad actually was happy when they’d come in late and tell him the movie he was watching sucked and they’d find something together to stay up to.
So maybe I’m making some of you sad, those that aren’t too excited about the empty nest either. But don’t be too sad because they come back. Honestly, they do. I remember being so forlorn when our youngest left us to all that quiet. I mean, who’d know I’d miss being jarred awake to cars pulling up outside, and shouts of good-bye over even louder music. I was expressing my dislike of our uncomfortable new quiet to a neighbor woman, about fifteen years my senior, and she told me, You should enjoy the break, they’ll return for this or that reason. Believe me, she said, they do that.
Well, she didn’t know my kids, I told her. My eldest was living with her boyfriend in another city. The second eldest was determined to be part of the film industry and there wasn’t enough of that work here, third child would be most determined to not move back home and the baby, who’d just left for university had been exploring new cities since a high school exchange to Italy. That ship had sailed – it was their dad and I, and grilled cheese sandwiches from there on in. That wise neighbor gave me this little half smile that said, who cares about all that, kids come back.
Some days I feel like that Million Little Pieces guy. I published this book, Text Me, Love Mom, Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest and guess what? The nest was empty, and (be still my beating heart) it will be empty again tomorrow morning, but it’s not empty now and over the last few years they’ve ALL had cause to return. In the book, I was writing about the chaos of it all, the challenges of iparenting from far away, and the turmoil of our family getting its bearings again. But over the years all our kids have needed a short term place to perch between; a job, a relationship, a school program or a decision. Usually just one of them at a time, never more than two. Thank goodness the place to land – was home.
Both boys have made separate sojourns home for a few months to refuel, work, or wait for the next film project to pick up. I’d go to the gym with them after having let that lapse, and we’d work out in our own corners. My oldest son would cook me the best eggs, eating his standing at the counter – I don’t know why. The youngest son loves breakfast out. Breakfast isn’t really my thing, but he’s a funny guy (when he’s not a serious guy) and the conversation was worth it.
The daughter that is all of their big sister, married her boyfriend and moved back to our city with their two small daughters and while house hunting they ALL moved in for three fun months of early mornings, an amusing messy toddler, a baby to snuggle, and all the glorious chaos of that. Finally, a year ago, when the house was too quiet again after all of that commotion, our youngest returned from living in Montreal and then LA for a short time, to work and establish a photography business here, but tomorrow morning she will drive off again with a packed car and an adventurous spirit and that chapter will close, too.
She humored her dad and I with a long walk on Sunday, though so tired from a late night with friends. This past week I’ve anxiously treated her to lunch out, and a bit of shopping. But really new summer blouses and lunches on patios in the late spring sunshine are only ways of lingering with this person I will miss. We will text and talk. We always do. But I’ll miss waking in the night to her coming in, I’ll miss that she liked to buy the groceries for me – it was like having a mom here instead of being the mom, I’ll miss her newly blossoming green thumb, I’ll miss her telling me, Mom, you look pretty.
The neighbor was right. They do come back and now she’s off again. More than anything I will miss a ‘kid’ in the house to call out to from this little room where I write.
To read more about Lily and I – along with the chaos of four kids being launched into the wide, wide world – during that next stage of parenting, click on the following links:
Link to Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712
Link to Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712