Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Confessions of an Unrepentant Empty Nester

My Darling Daughter,

It's that time of year again when parents wave bye-bye to their college-bound, newly employed, or recently married children. Social media is teeming with tearful parents, contemplating their lives without their little darlings taking up room on the sofa in front of the TV. And every year at this time I feel the need to apologize to you for not wearing sack cloth and ashes as you pulled out of our Atlanta driveway headed for Boulder, Colorado, 13 years ago. Actually, I seem to remember waving gaily. Godspeed! Drive safely!

For many years it was just us. I wouldn't trade that time for anything in the world. The day-in/day-out routines of getting up-and-at-'em for school, work, and church, school plays, choir practice, dance classes, Girl Scouts, a variety of camps, lots of fun birthday and Halloween parties, arts and crafts, friends coming and going, wonderful vacations and family gatherings - enough great memories to take us through a couple of millennia.

I knew sooner or later all that would end, that we'd move into another phase of mother-daughter relationship. I did my best to give you wings, and then at the appropriate time, pushed you out of the nest - though, truth be told, you had an arm and leg out of it already. I believe we were both ready for me to clear the nest. It not only let you test your wings, it let me test my almost rusty ones, as well. You had your adventures; I had mine, like seeing if I could live and work in Manhattan for almost 9 years.

So I never saw the empty nest as something sad. It wasn't an ending, it was a beginning. For both of us.

But reading all these weepy, oh-woe-is-me-my-baby's-gone posts on social media makes me feel guilty. What kind of mother am I, to not have fallen into a deep depression when you flew away? I can't believe anyone can love you as much as I do. We were joined at the hip for many years, you and me against the world (with a fabulous support system, of course). So why, oh, why wasn't I beside myself with grief when you drove away that day?

I don't have the answer to that. I don't think either of us has ever doubted our love for each other (OK, maybe a couple of times during the teen years). I guess I always knew I could be with you whenever I wanted, really - a phone call, a car trip, an airline ticket. You weren't leaving me, you were starting your own life. To me that continues to be a joyous thing. 

However, since there's obviously something wrong with me as a mother, next time you come over, I promise to do a little Old World wailing when you depart. Will that make up for all these years of not regretting my empty nest?

And is the nest ever really empty? Seems fuller than ever with all the new family members you've brought in!

Your loving Mama