For a lot of parents, the reality of the empty nest hits them like a crate of high school yearbooks that day they walk into their child’s vacant bedroom. Not me. When my son flew the coop more than a year ago, he left a whole lot of stuff behind in the nest. Even now, when I walk into his bedroom, I can hardly tell he’s gone.
So no, it wasn’t the room that brought empty nest home for me. It hit me that day I tasted sour milk for the first time in 18 years. Milk was never around long enough to go bad when Isaac was home. There were times when he was growing up I’d considered buying a milk cow.
Now all of a sudden, the milk has soured and so have a few other things. For one, my sincere belief that all these years, he was the one leaving lights on in empty rooms and dirty dishes all over the house. And he was the one eating the Easter candy long before Easter and the Halloween candy before the trick-or-treaters arrived. Now I know better. So do our trick-or-treaters.
Then he came home for a visit and I had another shock. Apparently, all the while, I was raising my son to think for himself, I was assuming it would be exactly like I think, because of course, I’m right. Now I often find myself fervently praying the prayer of the empty nest mom: Dear Lord, guide my child when we’re apart and my mouth when we’re together.
Yes, it’s not easy watching your chicks leave the nest, but don’t let me scare you. You’ve been in training for this. If your children are like my son was, you’ll hardly see them during their senior year anyway. I’d notice food missing from the fridge. I’d hear the shower in the basement now and then. I’d see his belongings scattered around, but other than that, there was little evidence he lived here at all. It was like having a travel writer rent our basement—a travel writer who never paid his rent.
But my son was preparing me and I appreciate it in the way you appreciate a flu shot. It hurts for a while, but it keeps you from getting really sick later on.
I look at it this way: We spend all those years raising them to be independent, and darn it, it works. I’m guessing the only thing harder than having your child leave the nest is having them decide they never will.
(Dorothy Rosby still has a cat, a bird, and a husband to keep her company. It must be them leaving the lights on.)
An empty nest full of sour milk