It’s confession time at After The Kids Leave HQ. Ever since July, when we started writing about our fascinating lives, I have been cast in the role of Intelligent, Sexy Younger Sister who Actually Knows More than Her Older Sister when It Comes to Living in an Empty Nest. It was kind of a long moniker, but once I discovered it fit on a standard business card, I was fine with it.
While ordering a 1,000 new business cards, it occurred to me that I was living a lie. A big, fat, unsexy lie about my Empty Nest knowledge. I worried that, if found out, I might be kicked out of the club, knocked off my perch, left in the gutter with only an empty bottle of cheap vodka to keep me company.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Wendy, you don’t even like vodka. True. But I know you’re also thinking “surely it can’t be that bad, Wendy”. It is. Let me explain. If you don’t mind, I’ll just turn on some music to help set the scene. A little, emotive violin solo would be appropriate here, I think.
I advised about being strong, keeping busy, finding and embracing new interests, not living for your children but re-learning to live for yourself. All well and good and I stand by it.
We had a few letters back and forth on what to do once the children left home. I was the voice of authority, because my children left home before yours. I sat here, reading your questions, thinking to myself “pshaw, I’ve been through that already, ho hum, how clever i am to have sailed through that without anyone advising me or offering solace”.
Well, ha. Ha, bloody ha, because I want to tell you now, I am a big faker.
Yeah, you heard me. I talk the talk but don’t prance the dance.
If it’s a Saturday morning and I know my son was supposed to be out with friends the night before? I’ll write him in the morning, hoping to get an answer, just to show he isn’t a) in jail, b) in hospital or c) newly married.
If the letter ruse doesn’t work, I advance to texting. After all, what self-respecting young adult these days isn’t connected to their mobile phone and its tech capabilities, right? He would be bound to have it switched on, being a modern 21st century citizen. If he doesn’t respond within 15 seconds of the message being sent (example message from me: Hi, just wanted to know if you mind if we throw away your X-Box today? Someone’s coming to pick it up at 10 am, unless i hear from you in 5 minutes), I worry that he’s a) in jail, in which case I’ll have to buy him playing cards to use as currency, b) been taken hostage in a Swiss ski hut, in which case I’ll have to bribe a St Bernard to heli-hike me in to the back country to save him or c) stabbed with Swiss carving knives by his roommate, who, since the day he moved in, hasn’t uttered more than one word to our son and is a dedicated Gangnam-style dancer, in which case I’d have to, um, become a fierce Ninja who can kill with a single awesome dance move.
If texting doesn’t work, I go directly to panic stations. This involves me going into a cold sweat, muttering under my breath and trying to convince myself there’s a logical reason why my 20-year old son isn’t hooked up to his computer, his iPhone, his life. Once I’m sweaty, hysterical and convinced I’ve got to find a way to look good in black for the next year, I give in and hyper-ventilate at my husband, who, around our house, is The Voice of Reason in these matters.
He found Kirsten for me when I was convinced she’d been kidnapped by a hillbilly family in rural Ontario. He located Gilly when the only logical reason for her radio silence was that she’d been arrested by State Troopers in Michigan and had no American money to call home from their payphone. He’s also been pretty clever about finding Michael all those times I was ready to put a Missing Persons ad in the village paper where he currently resides.
Lars tells me to calm down, there’s surely a logical reason why none of them can be found. Usually, it has to do with them wanting to sleep in on a weekend. Sometimes it’s because they’re on holiday, on a film set, in an exam room. Occasionally, it’s because their phone is actually switched off, out of battery or in another room. Shocking, I know.
What’s more shocking though, is my continued maternal insecurity regarding my little chicks. After all, my eldest has been gone since 2003. Granted, they live pretty damn far away, and not being able to see them every day has turned me into a crazy lady at times. What I’ve learned from my behaviour is to be more like Lars. Be calm, get on with my own life, be confident they’re getting on with theirs, DO NOT PANIC, assume the best and let them live their own lives without them having to worry about me being a weirdo nutsy freakazoid mother who doesn’t appear to trust them to make sensible choices on their own.
How many times have I forgotten to charge my phone battery? Only about a million times. How many times has my phone been on silent? Ditto. What about those times I see their text and think I’ll respond to it later when I’ve got time, and then I forget about it? Double Ditto. Do they call me, call my local police constabulary, demand the RCMP break down my door? No. They just get annoyed at my inept phone behaviour, chalk it up to me not being very savvy about social media, and wait for me to contact them. Which I inevitably do.
Maybe I should take a page out of their books. Maybe they should be co-writing this with you. I think they’re more sensible about this whole Empty Nest Maturity stuff than I am. If I let them take over, they probably wouldn’t let me keep my business cards, so maybe I’ll keep writing about how well-balanced and calm I am, at least until they run out.