Empty nest syndrome, I never knew when it would hit. That extreme feeling of loneliness when my kids began leaving home to start a life on their own. Everybody had graduated from college, the weddings were over and suddenly we went from “Full House” to “Just the two of us”. Sure my wife and I had each other but gone were the slamming doors, the laughter and the family dinners. I know it was our job to raise our children to be self-sufficient members of society but dammit, why did we have to do such a good job of it?
We no longer had to give our kids rides to school, the mall or a friend’s house. The house just didn’t seem right without a couch full of people watching television and fighting over the remote. Usually, late at night, I would realize I didn’t have to wait up for anybody to get home anymore because home for them was someplace else.
I would sniffle a bit and wipe away a tear knowing what a good job we had done. The house we called home always seemed so small when we were raising a family. I think we could park airplanes in our living room now, it is so empty.
When I walk by their empty bedrooms, I see beds that are no longer being used. There are no piles of clothes on the floor, there are no shoes under the beds, and there are no toys that haven’t been picked up. Gone is the raucous laughter that used to fill our house to the roof top, gone is the pile of boots by the back door that indicated everyone was home, gone is the back yard full of toys and bikes carelessly strewn about.
I knew the bedrooms would be empty, the house would be quieter, their places at the table unoccupied, but other little daily patterns of life, can simply take you by surprise. We didn’t have to rush them out the door anymore so they wouldn’t be late for school. We didn’t have to help them with their homework. Years of my family eating, sleeping and playing under one roof had been brutally altered and I had no idea how to handle it.
It is still hard for my wife to cook for just the two of us and sometimes a meal she cooks lasts us several days. She started shopping less. I have started taking her out for meals and ordering takeout food more often. It just seems silly to dirty pots, pans and dishes for just two people.
And then came the holidays…. Thanksgiving was upon us and the holiday season had started. My wife would go shopping for the largest turkey she could fit in our oven. Overfilling her shopping cart with more food than we could possibly eat in weeks. Suddenly there were a dozen of us eating and laughing, watching the grandchildren entertain us with their dancing moves and our house was alive again.
Empty nest syndrome, is not a medical disorder. It is a mixture of separation anxiety, sadness, and satisfaction. Life can be full of unexpected twists and turns. Going from a home full of people to an empty nest is one that every parent will know eventually. Figuring out how to accept your recently vacated nest is just one part of the trip called parenthood. Having your children leave your home will change you as much as bringing your first child home did.
Children leaving the nest should not be the conclusion of being a parent or the ending of your relationship with your kids. You’ll get to see your children become adults and probably see them become parents themselves. You might even get to see them become grandparents if you are lucky.
It’s common to miss your kids when they move from home. They were most likely the focus of everything you did and you were used to spending time with them almost daily for several years. Sending your child out into the world can stir up many emotions. This is typical in times of transition and these emotions frequently start when the first child leaves home.
Some empty nesters find that once they become accustomed to their new routine, one without soccer practice, lessons and school events that they will have more time and energy for themselves. This is the time to rediscover their interests, recover their long lost friendships and appreciate the world around them. And just when they think empty nest syndrome is what they will have to live with the rest of their lives, the grandchildren will start arriving. If you are as lucky as my wife and I were, Nana and Papa’s house will become their primary child care site.
Norb is a proud parent that knows the roller coaster of feelings that empty nest syndrome can cause. He has been through it all himself. Parents that are suffering from empty nest have his sympathy. Know that you will get thru this.
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