Sometimes I think I’m too sentimental, the sort of person who can get teary-eyed in a 30-second commercial. Maybe it’s age or menopause, though the truth is, I can’t remember when I wasn’t this way. This week it’s coming at me like gale-force winds. “You’re about to be empty nesters!” I keep hearing, and, yes, it’s true. Our little birds–who aren’t so little anymore–are leaving the nest in their own gusts of wind.
Amelia, our youngest, is graduating high school in mere days. And Macklin, our oldest, is already off to college.
I know I should be happy, and on many levels I am. They both have promising futures and the tail winds of a strong work ethic. Macklin is ecstatic about the chemistry lab where he does research, and Amelia will be honored this week as an outstanding student. It’s every mother’s dream, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Still, I can’t help grasping at bits of the nest they’ll leave behind. Memories, I mean. The mud and the sticks that held our family together. Because, in many ways, when I look at my children I don’t see them as near-grownups. I see them as babies and toddlers or bony, rambunctious adolescents. In other words, as little birds.
Not So Long Ago
Macklin started life with colic, and the memories of the endless hours he cried–if I think about it long enough–can still make my heart ache. Oh, but when the colic passed, he could smile, a huge, toothless grin that fattened his cheeks.
I can still hear the first sentence he said and remember, distinctly, where we were: in the kitchen, in our first little house. Up to that moment, he’d been limited to the standard words “momma” and “daddy” and “bobba” for bottle. But that was about to change. I had propped him near the kitchen sink so he could stand at the window and look outside. The garbage haulers, in their giant, bouncing trucks, had rumbled near. When Macklin saw them, his whole world grew as he exclaimed, fists in the air, “It’s a kwuck!” Oh, the things that mothers cherish!
Don’t Forget Little Sister
And then there’s Amelia, who startled me with her first sentence. It came in response to a question of mine. I was driving our minivan, thinking about lunch, with both kids in their car seats. Amelia was just 10 months old, not yet walking, while Macklin was going on three and quite verbal by that point. Naturally it was Macklin I expected to respond when I called out, “Who’s hungry for lunch?” Then came the tiniest voice, “I do!” She didn’t quite have the syntax right, but her meaning was clear.
A Stream of Memories
And those are just brief flashes. There’s so much more of the walls of this nest that I’ll keep with me: the way we’d read together in the morning or at bedtime; the way Macklin called himself and his sister “baby lions”; the way Amelia, when I tucked her in, used to give me a smooch and called me the “best mommy in the whole world–even including the aliens.” How precious is that?
And Macklin too. He’d probably cringe to read it: the second-grade tribute that I had laminated years ago. It’s about his mother, after all, and titled “MY HERO” in all caps. It’s part of my nest now, this settled old bundle of sticks, that, no matter how quiet for my husband and me, will never really be completely empty.
A Long Way From The Kindergarten Bus
It’s been a long haul for Amelia. In her freshman year of high school, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, an insulin-dependent autoimmune disease that means several shots every day and frequent monitoring of her blood sugar. These past three years have been an emotional roller coaster for all of us; never again will Amelia’s life be completely carefree. But she’s done a phenomenal job handling it all, much better than her mother, I might say. I can hardly remember a single moment that she’s felt sorry for herself, and not once–through headaches and malaise, her hospital stay or multiple appointments–did she let her school work slide. Not once, can you imagine? Not only that, her faith in God has grown stronger than ever. That’s just the kind of girl she is.
So Here We Are
In the coming days, as Amelia gets up on stage to be honored for her accomplishments, I’ll be there, remembering, and crying my heart out (or bawling like a baby is more like it.) I wish I could say they’ll be tears of joy, but that wouldn’t be quite honest, now, would it?
The truth is, I’ll miss the noise and the chaos of the childhood and teenage years, and I’m a little bit afraid of a quieter nest. I’ll have my writing, yes, and I’m thankful for that, and my husband, of course. And the two of us will get to know each other one more time around again, because we all know that children change us. But, all the same, would I make this choice–for a quieter nest–if it were my choice to make? For the sake of my kids, my little birds, it’s a good thing it’s not my choice.
My Wish For Them
So instead, to each of my children, I will say this: I love you, I love you, I love you. With every fiber in me, I love you. Always know that you’re welcome home at any time of any day… But more than anything: Godspeed to an amazing life.
Go now, take that leap, catch that breeze and head for your dreams. Just be happy as you build your life and, maybe someday, a family of your own. But every once in a while, if you don’t mind, think of this old nest and take a moment to look back.
–As always, your thoughts on this and every topic are welcome. Please feel free to share your experiences below. Besides, I could use the therapy!–