Growing up, there was always this dumb joke amongst adults about breaking their kids’ plate on the table and kicking them out when they were 18. My parents and their friends used to laugh just as hard about it at each dinner party. It didn’t matter that they’d been saying the exact thing my entire childhood. They thought it was a riot.
Meanwhile, I remember thinking how stupid it was to break a plate as I looked over at my siblings who didn’t seem to be fazed by this notion that as soon as they were 18, they’d be kicked to the curb.
Obviously, it was a joke and meant to be funny. And no, my parents didn’t kick us out when we were 18. Actually, I think I was the only one out of my four siblings who willingly left after I graduated high school and never came back home.
When I had my first child, the notion that he’d someday leave our home hit differently. I’d never make him think I was watching the clock until the day he left. I looked over at him in his clear bassinet next to my hospital bed. All I could think about was the day he would leave home. I’d wanted him so badly it consumed me. Now that he was here, I was so afraid of losing him I began dreading the day he was going to move out.
I’ve told myself I have so much time with my kids over the years. I’ve tried not to think about an empty nest. Yet, here I am, getting ready for my firstborn to move out, and I’m not okay.
I don’t love his messy room. I don’t enjoy how he left his ice cream container on the island last night to greet me this morning. I don’t like seeing his old tires and rims he’s left on my lawn, telling me he’s going to sell them on Facebook (it’s been a month, kid. Now Mama is going to sell them on Facebook and keep the money.)
There have been days when I’ve been so overwhelmed by having three teenagers. There never seems to be an end in sight with things they need, keeping up with their school work, their mental health, their junk in my yard.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m excited for them to leave. I’m not looking forward to waking up without them on the weekends or hoping they will make it home for Christmas.
Last week, I saw a post on social media with two empty nesters celebrating the fact they had the house to themselves at long last. Stuff like this triggers me every time. Not because I think these parents are wrong for celebrating the fact they’ve done a hell of a job raising their kids and they are now out on their own, but because I am dreading this time in my life in a way I can’t describe.
It’s hard for me to think about, and I wonder if there’s something wrong with me for having feelings of sadness and dread while other parents seem to be waiting on the edge of their seat to get their kids out of their house.
I don’t feel like celebrating at all. My son is graduating in June and I keep telling myself I need to put my sad feelings about the next stage of his life aside because really, this isn’t about me. It’s about him and the fact I’ve raised a capable adult who will be just fine on his own.
I will miss my kids terribly when they go. I wanted all three of them and it’s going by too fast. For the past 18 years almost everything I’ve done has been about my babies. Who will I be when they leave?
No one can really prepare you for motherhood. And certainly no one can prepare you for the teen years. So, how are we expected to deal with this sudden shift in our lives? When our homes go from being full of life to being full of quiet, empty spaces?
I’m not looking forward to my empty nest. I won’t feel like celebrating when my kids are grown and gone. I’m not even cheered up by the thought of having less laundry, fewer dishes, and no more closing the door to their rooms to block the mess.
So, this one is for all the parents who aren’t looking forward to their empty nest years. You won’t be crying alone, I can assure you.