Ahhh, I so remember this time of year. The panic sets in. You know that in a few short months... your baby is going to walk out that door and into the adult world. And there will be so many stages that you will experience as a parent through it all. I remember scoring the different websites just looking for a connection with other mothers going through the same thing. And found a few really great support groups. The theme all seemed the same...mother's and fathers were looking for a soft place to fall. A place to come to and find the experience of others that had gone through or were going through the same pain.
I mean, such is the pattern for all things... if you have an illness, you want to find stories of survival that give you hope. In a way it seems absurd to call Empty Nesters an illness but in a way if you really let the "empty" part of it take over your heart it is a bit of an illness. People can tell you to join clubs or fill your life with other things but the hard fact is that something is going to be missing in your life as you know it and nothing will make it better but time. Unless you are prepared and understand that it is okay to grieve but not so much that it stops your life.
My daughter house sat for her her drama teacher the summer before she left. to go to school. I think that helped me a lot. She was still close but not just in the other room. Slowly I began to let go but also set up new boundaries. I remember one night when she called me. Her teacher had left his airline tickets at home and wanted my daughter and her friend (both his students) to drive an hour away in the rain at night on an unfamiliar highway to meet him somewhere to bring it to him. My daughter called me asking if it was okay. Obviously, it wasn't. He ended up getting what he needed electronically at the airport but the fact that my daughter called me to ask when she didn't have to, made me realize that I could set my expectations up for her before she left my nest and I was pretty sure she would honor the boundaries I layed out.
Some of my friends and fellow empty nesters, even my own mother has scoffed at my relationship that I have with my daughter and yet it works for us. Some may let go more and that is fine with them but my daughter texts me everynight. "Mama I'm home" Which makes me know that she is in the door safe for the night. She has never missed a day in the four years she has been on her own. Now let me explain, I came from Southern California but when she was nine years old we moved her out of the City to the Country. We wanted to raise her in a more hometown grown America atmosphere and she has grown into a wonderful well rounded and amazing person. However as soon as she could, she returned to LA to pursue her dream of acting. Something that I support fullheartedly but from a little country town to Hollywood is hard for any mother to take.
Since her move she has moved at least 4 times. I may have lost count! One of those times was to a little studio apartment with no parking. Let me stop here and tell you mothers that when a place lists it's ammenties and says no parking they mean NO parking! When I was there for a visit, I watched her as she drove around and around the block for about twenty minutes waiting to find a place to park and we ended up parking 4 blockes away after 10PM so sorry if some of you think I am overprotective, I like knowing my baby is safe even if she is 23! Until she is married with a husband waiting at home and caring that she made it home safe, well then give me those 3 seconds to text those 3 words. And that my friends is my first snippit of advice! Set up your expectations. Texting and keeping in touch should be on that list. I can't tell you how many friends I have listened to wailing about not hearing from their kids. You most likely, are footing the bill for the phone... is it asking too much to require 3 little words?
Now, let me also say that we make sure that we dont' go too long without seeing each other just to catch up. Though it may be more difficult for some, my daughter is a little more than 3 hours away so we make it a point of seeing each other at least every couple of months and picking up the phone often as well. I have had texts such as: Thank you for caring enough to make me text you everday" which in the end is better than a brick of gold to me.
I guess if you weren't having something going on with your heart right now, you wouldn't have found this blog so I just want to offer you a lifeline. I understand. Set up your expectations. They may gripe but be firm... in the end they will love you more for it.