It’s that time of year again—the little kids are heading back to school, and the older ones are getting ready to leave the nest, some for the first time. And about-to-be empty nest parents are either heaving a sigh of relief, or breaking out boxes of tissues, or both.
This time last year, I was just trying to prepare myself for our youngest child’s departure. My feelings were up and down like a toilet seat—one minute I was filled with pride, the next I was terrified that after 18 years, Rachel would realize she no longer needed me, and we’d drift apart. I veered madly from grief to elation to sadness to nervous anticipation…mostly because I had no idea what to expect.
So today I thought I’d resurrect some of the letters you and I wrote one another last year, as a kind of reading list for parents whose kids are getting ready to make that all-important leap into adulthood.
How to cope during the last week before college starts
Prepping the fledglings for flight
Wendy leads off with some important tips on the important advice we give…and on letting go of our darlings. Plus some asides about my driving, which you can safely ignore.
The Big Day is almost here
I spent much of last summer trying to persuade myself that I’d be absolutely fine when Rachel left, but in that last week before school started, the reality hit. I have to admit, I freaked out just a little. When our youngest kids leave home, our families need to shift and adapt to get ready. And we all need to be just a little bit more understanding toward one another.
What’s the plan, Stan? Health crises and the college student
No one wants to think about “the worst that could happen,” and we don’t want to freak you out when you may already be holding on by your fingernails. But if your college-bound son or daughter has a chronic illness, you both need to put a sensible plan in place to ensure they stay healthy. In fact, every college or university student should be aware of their health-care options, and know what to do in case of emergency.
What to do when the kids leave home
Where I introduce Karen to a list:
Here’s the one where you showed me how important it is to take care of myself once the door shuts behind the last child. Re-reading your excellent list, I’m struck by how much of your advice I actually took, and by how well it worked for me.
There. I just admitted that you were right about something. Savour the moment, Wendy. It won’t happen often.
It’s Friday. Time for another list.
In this one, I add to your list with a few more helpful hints on getting through the days after your child leaves home.
Yes, you might cry, and that’s okay. But be prepared: get the kind of tissues with aloe in them. You can thank me later.
Adapting to the new reality
A beginning, a middle, and an end: Parenting, change, and the empty nest
Your child is in another city. Or another country. Or maybe in the same city, but in another residence. It’s just you now (or you and your partner, or you and your cats and/or dog), and it’s time to figure out what this new reality looks like.
In this letter, I remember what I used to tell my kids when they were upset by a change…and I start applying it to myself.
Pets and the empty nest
Humans aren’t the only ones affected by change. Our animal friends can find the new empty nest disruptive and upsetting. In this letter, we talk about what to expect, and how you can help your animals adapt.
From playground to college: Some things don’t change
You’re moving into a new stage of parenting, but be reassured: your kids still need you. They might not show it the same way, but if you’re aware of the signs, you’ll begin to see that your role is the same as it ever was. Except that now you have a clean house for several months of the year.
I hope this list helps at least a few parents cope with the upcoming emotional rollercoaster. Or at least serves as a welcome distraction.
And readers, remember: millions of parents have made this transition, and continue to survive and thrive. You will, too. Just give yourself time, be kind to yourself and others, and look after yourself.
- Empty Nest, New Beginning (fairymusings.wordpress.com)