There has been much written about the empty nest syndrome that we go through as parents when our offspring set off on their own. The general consensus among most of my friends is that this is a time of celebration, for both the departing child and the left-behind parents. They get their independence. I get my “freedom.”
But I’m not convinced it’s going to be fun and games when my youngest child leaves for university this fall.
My oldest daughter studied at university locally. She moved out of the family home when she graduated, found a mate, married and started her own family. The transition was smooth and welcomed by both of us. I didn’t really miss her because she gradually moved out over the course of a few years, or so it seemed, and I can see her every day if I want.
My second daughter left almost two years ago when she moved to London to study at Western University. The scars of that move are still with me. Summers, reading week, Easter, Christmas breaks are all too short. I get used to her being home then she leaves again. But I have to admit, it is getting easier and I find myself accepting her eventual move to live her own life.
My youngest daughter was supposed to stay here. Go to school here. Not want to leave home. Not want to leave me and Anna (our canine buddy). That was my plan, anyway. But it wasn’t hers.
We travelled to Ottawa recently to tour her new city and her new digs. I watched her excitement when she first spotted the university campus and listened attentively as the guide talked about the university and all the exciting things that happened there.
It didn’t help me that an ambulance was packed out front, lights flashing as paramedics wheeled a young female student out of the residence building to the waiting ambulance. We wondered why, but were left to use our imaginations to figure out what had happened. Of course, I thought the worse, but didn’t convey my fears to my child. I didn’t want to ruin the hype of her day. She was having fun, visualizing her future. I was feeling lost and a little scared, visualizing her departure.
I smiled the whole while, offering encouragement and equalling her excitement when we saw the living wall in the brand new social sciences building and saw the dorm rooms that were not as “small” as the ones at Western where her sister lived her first year of university.
We chatted about the move and how I could orchestrate visiting one daughter in London, the other in Ottawa during those times when they really needed Mom to come by and take them out for dinner, for a chat, for shopping or simply for comfort (though they would never admit to that emotion!).
As we talked, I wondered where the years had gone and how quickly they had sprung up on us. I ached with pride over her accomplishments and ached with sorrow over my impending loss of her company.
It’ll be a few years more before the familiarity of the empty nest will finally ease the loss I’m feeling today and have been feeling since the kids started moving out. It’s another evolution in the circle of life, I know.
But for today, it just doesn’t feel right and it certainly does not feel like a time to celebrate.