A half-empty nest
I’ve recently been going through an experience that in an odd way reminds me of what my daughter went through most of last year: encountering the inevitable questions.
For her, it was “Where are you applying, and what are you going to study?” (And yes, I did my fair share of asking other teens I know despite the fact that I know a lot of them hate it.)
For me, it’s “When does K leave for college, and how are you feeling about it?” (And yes, I am asking other parents this.)
In an exchange with my main wise-woman, K’s godmother, I wondered whether my sudden urge to declutter, reorganize, and plan my vacation just so wasn’t just a way to ignore my daughter’s imminent departure.
She replied, “No, you’re not ignoring it. You’re doing your best to prove you can keep going despite the rupture in your life. And when you’ve proved that your life’s structure will hold, then you can sit down and weep to your heart’s content!”
Structure. Rupture. Pattern interrupt.
Missing limb. Huge, gaping hole.
Seeing parents with young children, I’ve been having odd flashbacks to the tiny human she was 18 years ago…and all the stages along the way.
Of special note, a tiny little girl of three, wearing a wild get-up that had to include a very particular pleated red wool skirt without regard to what else she had on, standing at the top of the stairs and screaming, “I hate you Mommy! You’re ruining my day!”
I went to work a bit shell-shocked that day, only to be “comforted” by a well-meaning colleague who said, “Ha. Just you wait—at 13, it’s ‘I hate you Mom! You’re ruining my life!'” Gee, thanks.
I think first children teach us about our own crazy: we urge them to roll over, then crawl, then walk, then run, only to try to yank them back when we feel them pulling away.
My husband and I joke (and I often warn new parents) that life is really just a series of “Remember when she couldn’t-s.” Remember when she couldn’t roll over, and we could leave her on the bed? Remember when she couldn’t crawl, and we didn’t have to childproof the house? Remember when she couldn’t talk, and we could get a word in edgewise? Remember when she couldn’t…?
But then there are the delightful surprises along the way: I remember thinking, “I’ll never be ready for her to drive,” only to realize “I’m so done driving her all over the place…and now she can help with driving her brother!”
The best surprise?
The “you’re ruining my life” horror movie never developed, and that little human has grown into one of the coolest, smartest chicks I know—and my best friend.
Cue another inevitable question: “How did you do that?”
Um. I didn’t. I really feel like she came that way.
I did read parenting books voraciously, and I recommend the following to anyone embarking on the parenting journey:
- The Gesell Institute’s series Your-[fill in the blank]-Year-Old: rather outdated suggestions (unless it’s been updated?) but deeply wise commentary on child development
- Anything by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Girls and The Wonder of Boys (When we found out #2 was a boy, my brother said, “I’m so glad, because otherwise you miss out on half of the parenting experience.” It sounded like a warning? It was.)
- Love + Logic
- Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia
I do recommend you read, study, discuss, debate, get what you can out of all the resources you have, and then get out of your head and be with your child.
Ready to face parenting a teen? I love this advice from Michell Lehnardt about that stage. (Please note: I know I’m ignoring her advice by posting the red-skirted story above.)
Katiuska Luna Cancalon of Koncenter Coaching recently asked me in an interview how I’m getting through the rupture of a nest newly empty. And because I coach myself much the way I coach others, I would say that I’m trying to look at why it’s happening for me rather than to me while trying not to perform a spiritual bypass on it.
We’ll only have a half-empty nest, and I’m looking forward to seeing our son stepping into his role as a high school freshman (probably with a vengeance) and as an “only.” It’s a chance to take my coaching practice to the next level. And I’m sure that I’ll finally come to appreciate Snapchat!
It’s time to share this amazing, beautiful, witty, wise, and snarky human with the rest of the world—with thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda, I know she’ll blow us all away.
Drop a comment and let me know what stage of parenting you’re at and what challenges you’re facing?
Yes! yes! YES!! Thank you for your insightful words!! ❤️
I know you’re right there with me, Amy—you’ve been such a lovely inspiration and support to me in this process!
Love love love ?.
The convolutions of our first two launching into the larger world did not always have significant impact at the moments they arrived. Sweet and bittersweet blending, ebbs and flows of relief and vacant spaces were surprisingly embraced and/or evaluated with deep perspective. I am grateful to have witnessed their continued flourishing…not because of what WE did as much as, how you pointed out, who they just are and are becoming. Thanks for the wonderful reflection. And yes we have one still swinging us into another rupture/pattern interrupt.
I can already see it coming ( the rupture and growth, ebb and flow) and my only child/daughter is only 14 entering as a freshman in high school. Each age has been wonderful and enlightening and I count on it continuing to be that way as she grows and matures into her own person. So much of her is already shining through. Thanks for the references/resources.
Thanks, Frances—I completely agree that each age has its own light and lessons. I just keep thinking that it gets better and better, myself. Sounds like your daughter has a very wise mother….
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