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.