Recently a friend was sad about sending her firstborn off to college. I think she used the word “abandoning.” As someone who abandoned my firstborn halfway across the country two years ago and took all of a minute-and-a-half to start using her room for storage, I felt like I could offer some mature, possibly smug, advice.
I reminded her of all the good things about a child moving out. You’ll never worry about her when she gets sick or stays out late because you won’t hear about it until afterward. You won’t worry about her driving in a blizzard because she walks everywhere. You might even find they make good decisions without your advice. My daughter stayed at college and worked all summer which I didn’t think was a good idea until she made gazoodles of money — not anywhere near what she could have made if she’d come home. But most importantly, she’s exactly where she needs to be, doing what she wants to do, meeting scads of fascinating people, seeing a part of the world very different from where she grew up while heading nose-first into her future.
That’s what we wanted them to do. Remember?
I told my friend, “Trust me, it gets easier. As soon as you’re confident she’s safe and happy you’ll miss her, but in a good way.”
And I absolutely believe that. But I’ve never really understood the weepy Empty Nesters and have always felt the teensiest bit superior.
My daughter is home for a couple weeks before she heads to London for a semester so we went to see the movie “Mamma Mia.” There’s a lovely scene where Meryl Streep’s character is getting her daughter ready for her wedding with a song all about our children slipping through our fingers.
I wanted to grab my daughter’s arm and yank her back to age three where her busy life consisted of “reading” Smithsonian Magazine to her doll and coloring. There were no meanies in her life, no term paper stress, no overseas travel, no Homeland Security, no money worries.
But I didn’t grab her or get hysterical. You’d be proud of me. No emotional scene in the movie theater THIS time. (Full disclosure: I’ve made emotional scenes in theaters before. Anyone see “Shoot the Moon” a hundred years ago? As people were filing out, they asked my friends, “Is she okay?” At the time, I accepted it as concern, but I’ve since been told it was more like incredulity. Picture someone sobbing, unable to leave the theater, at the end of “Caddyshack.” Yeah. That was me.)
So I did what all weepy moms do …. I pulled out the photo albums. Perfect infants. Adorable toddlers. Proud daddy. Enormously pregnant me. Enormously. Pregnant.
Tell me stories about your pregnancy or that of your wife, girlfriend, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, neighbor, niece, co-worker.
Or tell me stories of any Empty Nest angst you’ve had or anticipate.
As a bonus, maybe my friend George will tell the story of going to see “Shoot the Moon” with me.