The upside of the Empty Nest

I haven’t written in such a long time. There are many reasons, but every time I’ve sat down to write, I haven’t been able to harness my thoughts into one topic. So in warning, this is a stream of consciousness that I hope will jumpstart a regular writing schedule. The reason I started this blog (in it’s previous form Busy Mom’s Journal) was to journal my life with my family so that I could look back in years to come. It didn’t matter that no one read it, I’ve actually learned a lot by revisiting the things that we went through in the last several years.  I hate that I haven’t written in so long, and I have a whole block of time that I haven’t documented. I may write some posts in the next few weeks about things that happened this past year, but for now, for those parents whose kids are entering junior and senior year, I want to share a little about our experience these last four years.

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Back in North Carolina…this is one of the reasons why I can’t get any work done.

I’m now almost three years into my life with an empty nest. I truly wish I had known four years ago what I know now. First and foremost, my relationship with my daughter, my only child, has changed beyond what I imagined, and for the better. Second, although there are days that I get smacked by missing her, I love the life my husband and I have created. We sleep late, exercise together, socialize with people because we truly want to be with them, watch whatever we want on TV, travel whenever we feel like it, not on the rare occasions of school holidays, and communicate more with our daughter now than we did the last year she lived in our house.

It’s almost like when I was single, in my 20’s, except now I have life experience, funds, and a husband who I adore.

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It was always the three of us…together and happy

But I was thinking this morning about how fortunate I am. I live in places that I love, each for different reasons, have met so many new and fascinating people, and most of all, I communicate frequently with my daughter. She is finishing up a semester abroad at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. She’s been there for five months and I’ve just now learned how to spell the capital city! But our relationship has come full circle.

We were always close, since it was just her, my husband and me. Then suddenly, out of the blue, I reached over to touch her and she pulled away. Seriously. Seemed like it happened overnight. I was the enemy. She would come home from school and instead of sitting in the kitchen with me and talking about her day she would run up to her bedroom and shut the door. Everything I did seemed to get on her nerves and vice versa. I was devastated. No one had told me about the period before they go away to college, where they “soil the nest”. I was crying on my girlfriend’s shoulder one day, feeling like I was the only mom who had ever gone through something like this. She assured me that I wasn’t. She had two older daughters who had done the same thing and she reassured me that my daughter would come back. That she had to go through this in order to separate and leave Tennessee to go to school in California. It made sense, but it didn’t make going through that time any easier. The one thing it DID make easier was the drop off her freshman year. I had anticipated that leaving her on the other side of the country and flying home alone would be devastating. But as it was, it was time for her to go, and for me to let go.  And I had almost no problem doing just that.  We both needed a time out.

And as soon as I was able to emotionally “let go”, truly realize that she was ready to make her own decisions, mistakes, and successes…completely without me, it was like we had a magnet pulling us closer together. It didn’t happen overnight. I had my own maturing and growing to do. And slowly but surely, just like my girlfriend told me, she came back.

This year was the magic year. Shortly after she arrived in Iceland back in January for her semester abroad (with the paperwork that she thought she needed, and compiled without a single input from me or my husband), she had to leave the country. She was supposed to send it over before she got there in order to get her student visa. They would not process it while she was there. Very expensive lesson about reading all the fine print.

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Meeting in NYC on her “Deportation Vacation”. So much love!

So we bought her the flight from Iceland to NYC, and I flew from Colorado to meet her on her “deportation vacation” and we had the best three days together that I can remember. We shopped, cuddled and watched movies, had great dinners together, and It was so great that when we separated I cried like I thought I would when I left her her freshman year. Two months later, J and I traveled to Iceland to visit.  It was alternately cold, wet, windy, snowy, sunny, but fabulous. It’s so much fun to see the person she is becoming.

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Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

We have settled into a comfortable closeness.  She is having an amazing time, meeting people from all over the world, learning so many new things, experiencing everything Iceland has to offer, but still has bouts of homesickness.  Unlike her freshman year, when the only time my phone rang was when she was experiencing something difficult or traumatic, now I hear from her about everything.  We don’t talk every day, but because of texting, and FaceTime, we can communicate anytime we feel like it.

Then, last month, I received three essay length texts from her, back to back, that were personal and heartfelt. She’d kill me if I shared them, but basically it was how happy she was with her life, her relationship with us, her grandparents, her friends, and her future. And I can tell you, as her mom, it was the best gift she could ever give me. And I think I can say the exact same thing. I am thankful, happy, and excited about the future.

So for those parents who are going through the angst of senior year, or empty nest syndrome, believe me, they have to go through it, and so do you.  And when you come out the other side it is so much better!

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About Elisha

After our only child left for college, my husband and I decided to pack up and head for the mountains! We split our time between Colorado and North Carolina and love everything about the mountain lifestyle. I write about the empty nest experience, and our adventures living, playing and working. Taking a couple years off from writing while I get my master's degree in Nutrition.
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2 Responses to The upside of the Empty Nest

  1. suzannestavert says:

    I cried reading this. Thank you for your sweet heartwarming post. I feel all of your same feelings. Isn’t it a lovely surprise when you find out how much they appreciate you and love you! Congratulations on a job well done.

    • Esa says:

      Thanks, Suzanne. It’s hard to be prepared for those separation growing pains, but all the sweeter when you come out on the other side!

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