Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Empty Nest

Empty nest. I'm not sure I like that phrase because I'm not a bird, and what I know about birds makes me glad my babies are human. Did you know that some baby birds will push their siblings out of the nest prematurely, causing them to crash to their deaths, just so they will get more food? Birds regurgitate food into the mouths of their hungry offspring, and they don't mind walking around in their own waste. They also have parasites.

Eustacia is leaving for college on Saturday and causing me to be called an Empty Nester. I'll have to think of another phrase if I must be called something at all. I'm still a mother, for Pete's sake, so why do I have to have a new label?

I had a dream the other night that we packed the kid up and drove her to her new college. As we were walking through the front door of the dorm, I turned to find her laying face down in a mud puddle refusing to go in. I ran to comfort her, and she declared she did not want to leave home and go to college. She was suddenly only twelve or so, so I'm pretty sure this was my own subconscious hoping Eustacia would want to stay home. I heard myself telling her that even though she has been my friend and companion and that I will miss her terribly, she really needs to go to college. I was sure that once she got over the initial shock, she would discover that she really likes it and would regret staying home.

Eustacia has voiced nothing but eagerness to leave home, so unless she's quietly harboring some apprehension, I know my dream was of my own making and not something she instilled in my psyche. I am proud that my subconscious reacted the way it did instead of letting me scoop her up and take her home where she would never have to worry about a thing the rest of her life.

A few years ago when Eustacia was not caring much about her grades, I jokingly said, "What, do you want to work at Sheetz the rest of your life?" (Sheetz is a gas station chain with a food counter). I thought it was pretty funny, but no one else did, so I was sorry. If my subconscious had allowed my daughter to come home and not face even the challenge of college, the poor kid would be working at Sheetz the rest of her life, not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that she's got potential for so much more.

So, I'm still a mother even though my kids are not living in the home I have made around them. This house isn't a nest, but if it were, it wouldn't be any less of a nest without the kids, and it isn't empty just because some of us don't live here anymore.

I keep telling myself that. I also keep telling myself that I was a whole person before my kids were born, so I don't have to think of myself as lacking because my kids are gone. I will really miss them terribly—consciously and subconsciously—but I think this is my chance to define myself beyond the motherly tasks that have filled my time for the last 21 years. There is another person in there somewhere. I know there is.

Next week when I am without my babies, remind me that I said this last paragraph and that I really think it's true.


dive said...

Birds are pretty much like humans … I remember watching Springwatch last year and seeing one barn owl chick systematically eat all its siblings. Eww!

Poor Robyn. You're the most creative person I know with a full and wonderful life and yet your hormones are putting you through Hell because the girls are off at college.
From what I can gather, you can drive to Eustacia's college, have lunch with her and drive home again in the time it takes me to get to the office, so it's not like she's on the other side of the country.

Of course, for her it is the most exciting and wonderful time so she won't be giving too much thought to your woes.
Ignore your stupid hormones and maybe you'll start to realise that you are also taking flight here … No more whining kids under your feet; no more "floordrobe" to wade through; no more frat parties going on in your pool when you just want to float in it … No more embarrassment at having to order pizza with macaroni cheese on top (I'll never get over that one; it traumatised me).

This week is the start of a completely new phase of your life. Embrace it and enjoy it.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I know you will eventually embrace and enjoy the journey ahead. Peace to you.


savannah said...

sugar, this probably won't help, but, i sent 4 off to college, almost one right after the other, but trust me on this one key thing...

even when you wish they would enjoy being on their own! xoxoxox

Shan said...

I was one of those kids who could have easily been talked into staying home as I could not see how much bigger my life could be outside of it.
My kids will run away cheerfully when the time comes but that is because they are social creatures who love new experiences. I'll have to be glad they have the confidence to strike out when the time comes.
Right now I'm in my "maybe we'll just homeschool" phase that hits me every year at this time like clockwork. I feel your heartstrings twanging from here but I feel certain you will live it up with all your interests and energies. :)

Scout said...

Dive, thanks for the encouragement but this isn't hormonal. It's relational.

Cheri, and peace to you as well.

Savannah, No. 1 hasn't returned quite as often as I expected, but she's doing well, so that's OK.

Shan, tugged heartstrings is a good phrase for this. My sister pointed out that we all ran away as fast as we could never to return, so at least I'm not facing that kind of departure. Right?

MmeBenaut said...

Ditto all of Dive's thoughts and words Robyn. You will discover a new world for yourself. Maybe that corner of the fabric shop ...

Alifan said...

Robyn, sending you cyber hugs, I know how you feel, but you have done a wonderful job now you can shine through all your great talent..

They never really leave you know, but I do feel for you....But they are alive and well and they owe it all to you..so pat yourself on the back, and keep blogging, because everyone loves you.....

PF said...

My prayers are with you, Scout. It's not a crime to shed a tear or two or ten when your kid leaves home! I did, and probably will again. Staying busy helps :)

Rich said...

Great post, Robyn. I almost shed some tears reading it (don't tell anyone)I realize that I was feeling my own sense of loss as well, as you know my son is heading off to NYC in a couple of weeks.

You know, I can barely remember my life "pre kids".

I still have my daughter to get through two more years of HS.

Good luck with everything, Robyn.