Parenting an Empty Nest

Feeling bittersweet, my kids are growing up. Today my daughters turn 19.

I wanted kids so badly and got unbelievably lucky, thanks to God and the science of fertility, to have them. (Not that we didn’t try, endlessly and enjoyably, the old-fashioned way.)

It was about two decades ago, I was waiting to hear if I was pregnant. I recall exiting the 72nd Street subway, knowing there would be an answering machine message at home with the pregnancy results. The whole world seemed super taut — like a too-tight, vibrating guitar string. I was reverberating on a super-high frequency. And I noticed all the commuters going about their ordinary lives. And I thought, ‘None of them is going through what I’m going through.’ The stakes were high. I hoped I would not burst before I got home to find out the news.

And it was a YES! The universe (and science) gave us what we were longing for.

Fast forward all these years. The chicks have flown the coop. I sort of hate the Empty Nest metaphor. After all, New York City kids are pretty independent, flying around on Uber accounts as if they were magic carpets.

On the plus side, the house stays way neater, but sadly, there’s way less liveliness. Dinner time is most difficult for us. Chris still slowly cooks way too much food for just the two of us. We forget that we are not feeding vegetarians and we still, healthily, eat mostly meatless meals. Over our meal, we talk about the kids or about our work or creative projects.

And then, we watch Jeopardy. See, as kids grow up and move out, there is this one consolation prize: game shows. Is this pathetic? Yes, and it is also very fun. The two of us discuss how well we do on our favorite categories of Entertainment and Literature. And then, we might play Gin Rummy. Then, for me, it’s time for bed with a book.

In any case, once a month, the pattern is disrupted. The chicks return home. Or maybe a nephew or friend will come to stay, briefly populating our empty rooms, adding dinner table conversation or another hand to deal at the card table.

When our kids were young, I was told endlessly, ‘The years go fast, the days go slow.’ And it is unbearably true.

So cherish each day, each year. Mark the birthdays with joy and remembrance of how badly you wanted these darlings. And then, remember, how, when they came into the world, they surprised and exceeded every hope and dream. Their childhood was not always easy, but, oh, it was undeniably worth it.

Let love for your family still fill your heart. And then, after feeling all these feelings — the waves of gratitude and love, tune in to Jeopardy.

People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth of their stories are the real badasses. – Dr. Brené Brown, Rising Strong

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I tried to take a selfie with Alex Trebek but he disappeared and all I’m left with is this selfie with the Jeopardy contestants.
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4 thoughts on “Parenting an Empty Nest

  1. I love this post and can so relate to it! Hope things are good with you! I love reading everything you write! My daughter is still in NYC and now working for Hearst. Going to visit next week! We will have to connect one of these visits! Barb

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. This is such a sweet story, it truly captures the roller coaster of emotions parents go through when their children leave home.

    We are university students who hope to make this transition easier through spread awareness on how having an #EmptyNest affects our parents through our website https://byomumdad.wordpress.com/ – we would love to know your thoughts!

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