Now there’s a way, and I know, that I have to go away, I know I have to go.
~ ~ ~ Cat Stevens’s song
A few years ago my kids and I found a bird nest containing a baby robin that had fallen after a storm. We put it in a shoebox and set it on our deck, hoping against hope that the little guy would survive. We even fed him a worm or two. We watched, and waited, and a day later the mother robin appeared, fed her baby and then returned countless times over the next few days to bring him food. One morning we looked out, and the baby was gone. He had figured out it was time to go, and he did.
I reminded myself of that this past summer when I saw my oldest child graduate from college and my youngest child graduate from high school. As luck would have it, the two ceremonies were a mere 15 hours and a vast 200 miles apart. Somewhat painful, but we managed to get to both ceremonies.
It was a significant moment in their lives, for sure. One (the oldest) was truly leaving the nest, however reluctantly -- moving into the final frontier called reality. The other (the youngest) was leaving home for the first time -- enthusiastically -- to begin his adventure into adulthood.
For me, it was equally significant. It was the end of act one, and the start of the second act of my adult life.
As parents, we spend virtually all our free time, energy and thoughts on our kids. It’s just what we do. And when they leave -- even though they’re still taking up a lot of space in our brains -- the physical void is palpable. In our case, even the dog noticed (fewer crumbs on the floor).
What I noticed: a handful of laundry each week; a gallon of milk that lasts forever; lacrosse sticks that haven’t moved since the end of summer; a spookily quiet house.
I was reminded of a favorite Erma Bombeck article my mother taped to the refrigerator that always made the writer cry. It was one of her more serious columns in which she heard herself yelling “why don’t you grow up?” and a tiny voice echoing, “I did.” I now understand why it made her cry.
But, the converse of that is “What if they didn’t leave? Didn’t move on?” That, for me, would truly be tragic.
I remember the rush I felt when I graduated from college, moved out, had a real job, a car, and dreams to be realized. It was a deliciously selfish time. And I want that for them. It’s just that as parents we have to convince ourselves that we are up to that task, just as they are. Our heads tell us it’s time. Our hearts tell us otherwise.
By Alison Strome