Friday, August 11, 2006

My Empty Nest

Since I'm probably one of the oldest of the bloggy group out there, I shall explain the phenomenon called "empty nest." For 22 years... 22 and a half years, I have had 1 or 2 children in this house, changed diapers, sucked snot out of baby noses (I didn't want you to think I was still doing this), driven all over town for lessons, birthday parties, practices, rehearsals, watched productions and lacrosse games, cheered on a runner, shopped for prom dresses, watch ear get pierced on 12th birthdays, help study for tests, read book after book even after you stop reading to kids, shopped and packed for mission trips, and shed a thousand tears and smiled a million smiles.

For someone who never ever ever wanted to be a mother, that is all I have known for over 22 years. And I know that it doesn't end on Sunday when I drop Dorothy (Daughter #2) off at college, but I will be returning to an empty nest. Well, it's not like the above list of activities included sitting quietly and faithfully upon a nest. It's been an action film, full of drama and laughter, fears and pain, joys and pride, excitement and anger and everything in between. It's not like this kid or the other one went to college very far away. It's only 2 hours down the highway. But we all know the empty nest is more about heartstrings than it is about miles. It's about walking the walk and talking the talk of the old adage that the best 2 gifts we give our children are roots and wings. Well, this weekend it's the wings. This daughter is different than Mabel, daughter #1. I have often joked that God sends you the firstborn and it lulls you into complacency so that you have another one. And if my 2nd born had been my firstborn, she would have been my only born. They are just two totally different children.

First, Mabel packed for weeks in preparation for her departure, and when she wasn't packing, I later found out that she was making a scrapbook for me to thank us for everything we had done for her and that she was ready because of how we raised her. (Dorothy, going into 9th grade at the time, already "warned" us, "Yah, don't expect that from me. It will never happen.") When we dropped off Mabel, we giggled because we didn't find the elevator till after the Dad carted everything up 3 flights of stairs. Shhhh, he still doesn't know it was right across the hall from Mabel's room. We didn't even cry on the way home because that kid is so well adjusted, so ready for the world, so level headed, so strong. We knew this was the right place and that she could take on the world.

Dorothy started packing today... I think. I'm still not allowed in her room. I think I actually saw floor the other day after threatening "If you don't clean it up, I'm taking it to Goodwill." She hasn't worn her retainer since she got her braces off, sleeps in her clothes and contacts, hasn't read the book that everyone on campus is supposed to read as a group, and there is no evidence that she has reneged on her promise not to make me a scrapbook of thanks. She has, however, gotten onto Facebook to "meet" everyone in her dorm, in her major, who worked with her this summer, who reads romance novels, loves Rent, hates Bush. That was a number one priority for her. She does not have a sentimental bone in her body. She is not good at decision making (or is just that my perception?). Although horribly needy for people's approval, she often does things or says things that we want to see or hear just to get us off her back. She is fiercely independent and tough, distant and witty, bright and lazy, undisciplined and yet focused. She is me. Or rather me at that age. And my mother had very much to worry about, but she was too stoned to know the difference. I am not. I know too much, feel too much, worry too much. Will she make good decisions? Will she let people use her? Will she try to please too many people and lose herself? Will she start skipping classes because she doesn't wake up to her alarm? Will she will she will she? Will the questions never end?

So we will drop her off Sunday morning at the dorm where she (I) enrolled (her) in a leadership seminar so we could move her in "early" as opposed to moving Mabel and then driving back Wednesday to move Dorothy. She has a week to get into trouble before classes start. Stop it, Mother. She will be fine. I was fine. But I know what I did and what I went through to get where I am today? But am I who I am because of the pitfalls. Did I grow because of the mistakes? Did my mother's negligence make me who I am today? Do I need to start taking drugs to forget the pain and worry of my empty nest? It helped my mother!

And then there's Dorothy. She is an adult. Sure, she is only moving 2 hours away to the same city she went to college in, the same city as Daughter #2, but she no longer needs to come home when they close the dorm. She doesn't have to come home for dad to do her laundry. When she does come home for the holidays, it won't be for 2 or 3 or 4 weeks. It will be for the few days of that holiday and then it's back to work. She does not write letters, nor does she want me to write her as she didn't when she was at college because she doesn't have time to read them. Dorothy, on the other hand, is my reader and will at least appreciate having a letter writer for a mother. We will probably spend Sunday afternoon helping her straighten up her apartment since she will have just gotten back from her summer in Maine and teacher meetings start Monday. We all know she will be on a freak out, her term for "get the fuck outta my way." We will try to help her while getting the fuck out of her way. It's an artform I have perfected over the decades. The decades of being a mother.

That gentle, consistent, persistent nudging that promises I'll always be there while backing out of the room. Please think of me this weekend. It won't be easy, but then they never said it would be.


At 10:49 PM, Blogger Pam said...

Oooh...I'm first.
Will she make good decisions? Will she let people use her? Will she try to please too many people and lose herself? Will she start skipping classes because she doesn't wake up to her alarm? Will she will she will she? Will the questions never end?

YES and NO. She will do all those things... more and then never make the same silly mistakes you did.

Big breath in....and out. BREATHE Red! It'll be great. She'll be great. And I promise she will make some stupid mistakes. Some you will know about and some you won't. And it'll still be okay.

Hugs baby. From your- this side of fourty, redheaded, bloggy friend!

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Leesa said...

Oh, great post :)
She'll figure it out, just like we did. She'll make mistakes and learn from them too.
Did we learn more because our mothers didn't care? Possibly.
We were strong-willed, determined, and redheads!
Can't go wrong there! :)

At 10:29 AM, Blogger greekchickie said...

Oh girlie. I'll be thinking about you today & sending you all my good wishes. You're a fantastic Mama & your baby girl will do just fine. Even us that had dysfunctional childhoods ~ we managed to turn out ok. Why? Because we didn't let ourselves become victims.


At 8:08 AM, Blogger Silent One said...

Isn't it amazing...when we sit down and look back over the years, what we have all accomplished and done. My babies have a few years before this happens.... but I still worry about it. I don't think either of them is prepared yet to leave. Somedays I fear that they will be here till they are 30.

Sounds like you have two very well adjusted, mature, and responsible young ladies. Well Done MaMa!

Pam, Leesa and M~ made some great points... Everything will be A OK~!

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Semi-Celibate Man said...

Interesting post. Big change in your life, it sounds like.

I can't yet envision the situation. Married a quarter century and I'm still chasing around a second grader. Long road to go.

At 2:12 AM, Blogger Magpie said...

what a lovely post, i hope she does well at college

thanks for the birthday wishes


p.s. gobsmacked = shocked/surprised, probably a british

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Shephard said...

I hope it all went as well as you hoped, and that your previous practice came in handy.
I actually enjoyed reading this. I think the hardest part must be that fledgling period where the kid learns to fly and wants to be alone. Then the pendulum swings back to balance it hopefully. My mom and I grew closer during and after college.

~S :)


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