The Nest Is Empty And I’m A Raving Lunatic
(penned August 9, 2008)
Disclaimer: I write this with full knowledge that one or more of my children will read it. Be aware that I will temper my words and tiptoe carefully through the tulips so as to not offend. Sometimes the truth hurts yourself more than others. None of the following words are meant to harm.
“Raising teenagers is like nailing Jello to a tree.” I read that years ago and have been quick to quote it anytime involved in conversation concerning rearing the aliens residing in your home aged 14 to 19 years of age. I’m not sure if it was just my naiveness, or if it’s a blanket thing for all parents, but I fully considered myself exempt from not understanding my children. I went through a painful divorce just as my oldest was hitting his teens. And I handled it badly emotionally which directly affected my children. I simply had no idea how adversely. Were I offered 3 wishes by a genie, my first would be to turn back the hands of time. No, not to change the divorce, but how I handled it with and in front of my children. I saw no further than the end of my nose for a length of time. I turned inward assuming that for a “short time” things would take care of themselves. When your pain is intense and you are severely wounded, it’s hard to focus on others. It took all I had to survive day to day. I am in no way justifying myself, I was wrong. Herein lies the casualties of divorce, the children. I will take flak for admitting that I would still divorce even in hindsight from 10 years. But I would do my darnedest to make the transition easier for my children.
I was determined to expose my 3 to the world outside the usual boundaries. Single motherhood is rough, period. I taught them independence that most don’t learn till later. They learned to wash clothes, cook and take care of themselves while I strived to provide. We went to student jazz concerts at the local university. We experienced fine dining and celebrated birthdays in high fashion. We trained to Atlanta and relied fully on public transportation. (They loved the subway/metro/bus systems.) We spent Christmas week in New York City. And another Christmas week in Washington, D.C. We saw Phantom of the Opera and any musical that came near. On our yearly forays, we visited a museum of each of their choice. We spent a week at the beach. We stayed in a friend’s apartment in the French Quarter in New Orleans, cooked and dined outside in the courtyard. I encouraged creativity and uniqueness. On our trips, each one got to pick a place or something they wanted to do. We usually found out of the way music stores, vintage clothing stores, even skate parks. All done on a budget.
What I was so proud of doing has now bitten me in the proverbial butt. I live alone for the first time in 25 years. My oldest took a job in Houston last January. The middle child, my daughter went off to school year before last. My youngest who graduated in May now shares an apartment with his sister who recently moved back to town. My house is quiet and I have learned to desperately love Izzy, my black cat. What I thought was so modern of me, the exposure to the world at large, has given my children the confidence to jump nest, all without my permission.
When an additional heart is confined within your body for 9 months, you birth this being with untold fanfare, you teach this child to not get to close to cliff edge, you clothe, feed, and reveal to them the ropes of life, how in the heck are you supposed to stop? I held their hands when they took their first steps. I spooned untold bites into their little mouths. I taught them to zip and button. I wiped their mouths after vomiting. I bought her first pair of high heels. I doctored skinned knees. I flew to the hospital for stitches. I complimented their talents. I encouraged individuality. When and where does the completely natural urge to “mother” stop? Why is it now viewed with disdain by the very ones you practiced it on? I WILL question my heavenly Father on this upon arrival to the pearly gates. It is absolutely not natural to not have a say in all things concerning ones who went through your birth canal.
I don’t desire to run their lives. I have always wanted them to be effective and successful. I don’t want them all living in my house. But I do want to understand how to stop this desperate yearning for my children to be at my beck and call. Or to at least know they are safe and sound and are making good decisions. The very thing society drills into you that is unforgivable is all of a sudden the thing you are not only forced, but expected to do. You’re admonished to protect your children, and a popular ad campaign often asked “it’s midnight, do you know where your children are?”. Now, instantaneously, I’m not supposed to ask. I’m now told by friends and family, ”Just let go. Cut the apron strings. Let them grow up!”. To which my mind replies, that’s a load of............freaking manure.
So I’m now relearning what society has deemed politically correct, the opposite of what society demanded just days ago. And it’s still a load of freaking manure. I’m not calling as often. I’m not questioning as not much seems to be my business anymore. I’m practicing not being so needy. I no longer demand.
My only hope is that I have proved my love, that what I have done has been right, and that now they will repeatedly venture home on their own.
I’ll continue opening cans of cat food and pray that Izzy sticks around.=)