my old country house

LETTING GO

(elinor b – this is for you – log overdue)

I apologize again.

I had intended to write ALL about our travels to Australia this summer – and still intend to do so – but right now – there is only one thing on my mind – one thing that I want to write about and that is :

I am about to be an “EMPTY NESTER”!

COOPER IN 2ND GRADE

We drop our youngest off at college in 6 days – this is the last week that he will live under our roof – yes, yes, I know that “they come back!” and all that stuff – but let’s face it – my years of raising children will be behind me. All that “stuff” that filled our days – the places we drove and sat through and visited and waited for – are behind me.

It is the first time that I have ever had what feels like a completely blank slate in front of me. No course requirements, no orientation, no syllabus, no one telling me what to expect. It feels akin being on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Vast open space. Total emptiness. Boundaries completely unknown. No road map or itinerary or schedule to adhere to – nothing to give me a sense of purpose. I feel so completely pathetic. I wake up each morning thinking all these things like ” “You should have NEVER stopped working!” or “You made them your life and now you basically have NO LIFE!” and “Why did you leave Acting and Nursing and everything else to become a blogger and artist?” and “You should have learned a more tangible skill that could be put to good use now!” and the absolute worst – most self-defeating thought a person could have – “You have wasted your life and now they are gone!”

The kids in the driveway 2004

I mean – even I want to slap myself. Shake some sense into ME. I want to remind me of the 3 absolutely amazing kids we raised – that perhaps in some small part they were able to become these amazing people because of – in some small part anyway – ME? I remind myself that THIS TRANSITION, while immensely personal and as different person to person as each person involved – that this PLACE I am about to find myself in – is actually unavoidable – no matter what I did – how I chose to do it – whether I had a worked full time – or not – I’d likely have a whole set of things about that predicament that would bring on regret. But in fact – when you have children – and love someone that much – all roads lead HERE.

In those moments of despair it does not occur to me that maybe – had I stayed Acting I might have never met the man I have been married to for nearly 25 years and created these incredible people.

The Kids surfing at Dana Point CA

But I’m also a little mad. Miffed and a tad slighted that so much attention is placed on the START of this journey – beginning with conception – all the way to college admission tests – and yet – little to no voice – is given to the end of this journey. To the part when it is over. Is it because it is just so sad that either no one wants to visit it any earlier than necessary ?or that those who have weathered it have absolutely NO desire to reflect wistfully on their journey? I have had conversations with recent empty nesters where they start to talk about their experience and then, pause, give a little shudder – as if they just stepped on a grave – shake it off and subsequently just say “It was really REALLY hard”. I get the sense most people would rather talk about in-depth about a surgical procedure than to visit the home office of Empty Nesting. Is it too indulgent? Too ungrateful -I’ve been told, by well-meaning friends – “They will still be your children! – it’s just different. ” (as if I had forgotten that) .

And most tell me that – in the end – AFTER the crying and the sadness and the emptiness and the loneliness that in fact, “It’s actually not bad. It’s even good!” and I know they are telling the truth. I see it in their faces and their homes and their lives that they have rediscovered a piece of themselves – lost somewhere along the Preschool admissions line – and that they are indeed finding actual “benefits” to having raised happy and healthy adults who are living productive lives out in the world – and not with them. They are visiting amazing places that in the other life were too expensive or just not much fun when you are are dragging a hot toddler or a surly teen who would much rather be with his or her friends.

2009 – MY THREE BABES

I get it. I KNOW that is is GOING to be just fine. Maybe even more fine than I think and perhaps just perhaps – there is a parallel JOY that I will discover – the flip side to all of this deep grief I experience now. I’ll get there – heck, I’ll probably even say “WOW – I cannot believe how happy I am!” Someday. I will.

But right now – I’m in the middle of the part that no one wants to talk about. I miss my babies and my little kids and their sweaty bodies and the mac and cheese and cartoons and all the side-line chats. Ballet and soccer and Rowing and drop offs and pick-ups and buying school supplies. I miss the routine and bathtime and stories before bed. Lightening Bugs and Prom pictures. All of it. Even the part that was very very boring. I miss all of it. It just went so damn fast. Just so fast.

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11 thoughts on “LETTING GO

  1. It’s not horrible, it’s not over the moon, it’s just different. You have worked so hard for all these years to teach them how to fly, now that they are doing what you groomed them to do, grab a cup of something, sit in a sunny place, and rejoice in your accomplishment. Yes, the TO Do list will morph. Give yourself time to adjust. Feel the difference, but don’t dwell there too long. Love you!

    1. Thank you Gay . You have always been there – like a guardian angel on earth – to offer words of support, compassionate hugs and wisdom . I often feel as if I have “no family” , no one at graduations – no one that checks in on a big day to say “how you doing ?” And I can feel
      Sorry for myself . I know , it’s so wrong and inaccurate . But I do . And then I think that this summer alone – I saw, and shared hugs, laughs, meals and in some cases – a week with – my 4 first cousin women who each are like sisters to me . “I have so much love in my life that I can’t help but be okay !

  2. Lesli, the pain you feel is all because of “love.” You love your kids so intensely that this stage – realizing they are going off to school and career – away from your nest is – wonderful and heartbreaking. You and Damon have poured your lives into raising wonderful kids with tons of love and support. I have gone through empty nest three times and already dread the twins growing up and going out on their own – and yet it is all good. This is how it is supposed to be. It is just hard. You and Damon have done a wonderful job of raising your three into fine adults. ❤️

    1. So many times I have wished I could talk to my Mom – ask her “How did you do this ?” I know she has distractions and much bigger hurdles to get over than me leaving but I still know that it must have been so hard and lonely for her not to have her girl there . I am grateful and so comforted that the two first comments came from two women who have known me my whole life . They know I will be okay and that I can do this and are still so very loving and compassionate . I am so blessed by you and Gay . No words can describe how much that means to me . Thank you

  3. I remember the day my youngest daughter drove off with her army recruiter to go to basic training. I knew she would never come back home to life again and I was right! I cried for hours, and sniffled about it for days, but I did adjust. It was strange to no longer worry about coming home after work to prepare dinner with her there waiting for me. But you will adjust, and it is actually an exciting time because now anything is possible for you, a fresh new start for the rest of your life. It will be fun to hear what you find to do.

  4. Lesli, I don’t have any words of wisdom to share with you. I can only say that I feel your pain. My four children are raised and gone. My youngest are twins, so they left at the same time. You can’t understand an empty nest until you experience it. I was surprised how unprepared I was. For those of us who are child-centered it leaves an emptiness that is difficult to overcome. I find myself thinking of ways I could have been a better mother. I suppose that is why most people are so thrilled to become grandparents because it’s another chance to love and nurture a child. That hasn’t happened for me yet, but it’s something for us to look forward to.

  5. As an empty nester for years, I can honestly say that you miss the noise & routine. It is hard at first but it does get easier. FYI, a year and 1/2 ago oldest grandson 19 years moved in and lived with us for 18 months while attending a 2 year college near us . Getting used to him under our roof was ok. The tough part was having to know when he would get home. It was a nice feeling and he spend many dinners with us. When time came for him to leave, it was the same feeling all over again but we were happy & sad, but it was alot easier to say goodbye. We were greatful he chose to live with us for a time.
    I got to know him more and he us. I’ll cherish that time always.

  6. Boy have I missed you! I so feel for you. And what a subject you’ve touched upon. I’m retired due to health reasons and I wonder where life has gone. I was a single parent raising 3 children, worked a full-time job and tried to care for a mother with alzheimer’s . Talk about a treadmill! The years went by, my mother passed away and my children are grown with children of their own. They all have busy lives. Time marches on and there is a new normal but the joy, love and caring we put into raising our children can never be replaced.

    1. You are so very sweet . I miss blogging too – and want to get back but I have yet to find time . I recently was asked to provide photos of DIY projects – for a possible magazine feature and was so blown away by how much of this house has been touched “ by me . That time feels past now and I am going to figure out what is next . Still getting “reoriented” and think it will take time . Just time . Thank you for your wonderful message!

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