Sunday, February 17, 2008

Baby Steps to an Empty Nest

You know that "all's well" feeling us mothers have sometimes? The feeling when everyone's home within the solid walls of your warm and cozy house and you know exactly where everyone is and that your entire family is safe and sound?

I love that feeling.

When you have four kids between the ages of 18 and 23, that feeling tends to be fleeting because sometimes, just when you've settled into the mother hen-ness of it all, everything suddenly changes.

Take this evening...

One minute we were all watching Across the Universe and mutually admiring its amazing artistry and incredible music, and then suddenly, within just 20 minutes ALL this happened and sucked the mom-ahhhhhhh feeling right out of me:

Aleks suddenly hopped up and reminded me that he's going to his friend Megan's house and then to a party with her; he doesn't know the people throwing the party, but he's sure he'll be fine. He'll probably be home tonight, but isn't sure. (He's 18, I remind myself. Learn to let go.)

Some of Kat's friends stop by and ask her to hang out with them at a mutual friend's house. She throws on shoes and a sweater and on her way out I ask and she answers all the requisite questions -- where, when, who. (She's 18, I remind myself. Learn to let go.)

Peter and Danelle, who joined us mid-movie, take off as they do every evening, and head to Danelle's house just a third of a mile away. Even though I'm used to it, the distinct difference in activity and noise level is always a bit disconcerting. (But Peter will be 21 in a few days, I tell myself. Goodness, mama -- learn to let go.)

And then Elisabeth gathers up ski gear for a week-long business trip to Park City, Utah that will be part ski, part play, and part professional sales-schmooze. Before I know it, she too is off. (She first left home almost six years ago, so I tell myself that I've already learned to let go. But does a mother ever really let go of an oldest daughter?)

Then the house is suddenly quiet. Very quiet. Disturbingly quiet. I look quizzically at Tom and then at the front door. "What just happened?" I ask, rhetorically. "Weren't they all just here?" Why do they do that?"

"They do that," Tom reminds me, "because they are full-fledged, independent adults who are in the midst of leaving the nest, and this is how it's done. They'll be back -- a few at a time, all at once, and everything in between. Tomorrow, next week, and everything in between."

We do some dishes, read a column or two in the Sunday paper and then decide to watch the special features disk to Across the Universe, knowing that we must begin to slowly get used to the quiet that will surround us constantly, come next fall.

But before we even really have a chance to settle in, the front door opens and Aleks kicks off his shoes and heads upstairs. "Hey, you're home!" I announce. (Duh! God, I am such a mom!) "How come?"

"Because," Aleks replies., with that what-a-dumb-question tone. "I just felt like being home."

"Cool," I say as non-nonchalantly as I can. And one sixth of that "all's well" feeling settles peacefully within me again.

I wonder if a mother hen ever completely stops being a mother hen, even when her proverbial chickadees are completely on their own. When my whole family gathers together for holidays in the years to come, will I still feel this familiar "all's well" peace when my family is together?

Somehow, I hope it never really goes away. Because I will never NOT be a mom.

Addendum: Within 20 minutes of posting this, Kat came back home with a few friends, asking to hot tub in our back yard and Aleks decided to go back to Megan's house, but not to the party.

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5 comments:

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

LOL... they sound just like young adults to me!

It's going to be strange next year - no doubt.

vailian said...

You must be a great Mum if they still would rather be at home than somewhere else!

Blog Antagonist said...

You know, that sounds both wonderful, and horrifying. We don't have any family nearby and we don't employ babysitters (no big philosophical reason for that, we just never found somebody) so we almost never have time alone.

So that sounds really, really good.

However, I know the reality will take some getting used to. Our house is always bustling with boys and loudness. It will be very strange when that is gone.

renate1945 said...

From experience I can tell you that the "all is well" feeling will never go away when the family gets together. Once there are grandchildren, it only itensifies, mostly because it so seldom happens that everyone can make it back to "Mom's" at the same time.

Goofball said...

this story makes me smile :)

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