By Natalie Caine |
People ask me if the loss during empty nest gets any better and the answer for me is Yes.
Yes, that I know how the routine goes. Yes, I have filled in some of my own needs that were on hold. Yes, I know she is growing and on her search for who she is and how to handle what comes up in life. Yes, that I have confidence in her and that her life is a good one.
What I miss is when she tells me what’s going on right then and we can’t have the time to just be with that experience. The telephone or emails aren’t always enough.
When she is very excited or something sad has happened, those are times I wish we were down the street from each other. There aren’t enough cues to communicate…no smiles, no eyebrows lifting, long face to just be with, no hugs. Body language is lost. Long pauses are lost.
The knowing that we can talk about it later is gone. Usually, later doesn’t’ come about that experience because they are off to the next event in their life. Sure you can bring it up again, when you do connect, but that initial moment of sharing is over and often short. They are busy and have their new world that they are involved with and pulled into. It is not that they are being rude with you, but that they feel the need to move on. Something in their world is calling them, like responsibilities or people that are there, or the simple reason that it is too difficult to talk about on the phone. They too, don’t have the body language, free time, or pauses to meander in. They feel that and just want to move on where more is available to them. It is not a personal rejection. It is them being into them. Often it is” age appropriate”, as the saying goes.
You might say, they are a little self centered. Truth is, there are positives to being self centered. They are relying on themselves and not being crippled by your “being there for them” when they need to be on their own. It isn’t mean, although it can feel rejecting and hurtful. They aren’t planning to be that way when they leave. It is not their goal. They simply are learning how to separate and grow up. They are going to treat us poorly at times. Are we striving for them to attend to us or reminding ourselves that we are in a learning process of how to keep the communication and connection with them. We want our kids to be independent and happy. We want them to want to spend time with us out of their love for us and the fun of it and not the obligation and guilt.
How we get there with each other, is teachable and correctable when we don’t get our needs met. We need to remember we are all human. Sometimes, our needs get left behind and we can talk about that with them and not be “punishing and parental.” They seem to have a short attention span, so lectures and discipline aren’t affective. Saying what you need and how you feel might be more successful with you and with them. Solutions are trial and error. The intention to love is solid.
Speaking of not lecturing on and on , let me let go of that issue and get back to what I like about empty nest second year!
I like my freedom. I like not having to follow a schedule around her needs…I like the silence at times. I like not carrying so much responsibility because now, she doesn’t have me around to do that with her. She is gone. She is solving and choosing her own ways of being. I like that feeling that she doesn’t really need me as much. She might like having the help, or the comfort of mom, and the fun of hanging out together. But, the need is gone now. She can usually figure things out, and deal with the great and not so great choices she has made. So, I feel the relief that she has those skills.
If I were to interfere, she might not stay in communication with me and worse than that, she wouldn’t grow into a full adult. Those ideas motivate me to think before I act and before I speak. I listen. I usually wait for her to extend to me, by email or phone call. If something important needs to be answered, I call her and then pop an email.
I let her know how much I love her. How proud I am of her for …..
I share some of my stories so that she feels connected to my world and it is fun for me to fill her into my life. It is not a balance because at this time of life, her needs are newer than mine. I am a full adult. I am in touch with different parts of myself and I know myself pretty well. I am not needy of her. I am curious about her and happy when we do connect. I get excited when I am going to see her and I love hearing her stories of life. The difference is… I DON”T HAVE TO HEAR FROM Her. The first year, I did NEED to hear more from her.
Trust is stronger now. Respect has built. She has shown her success at independence and has handled her life without any major price to pay. Sure there have been mistakes, but nothing that couldn’t be handled or forgiven.
Letting go is an ongoing process. It is not like you, “get it” and the sadness doesn’t occur again. It does and it will. But it becomes more familiar so you know you can trust yourself that you will be ok in the sadness … You won’t “not get up again. “
You learn more about feeling whatever you are feeling. Sounds simple, but sometimes all we can do is just feel whatever feelings surface. Anger, sadness, sorrow, fear, hurt, love, happiness, joy.
I think the fear of the feelings are often worse than the actual feelings. Sometimes we have no control over the emerging feelings and other moments we have to put them aside.
We are still ok. We forget that we will be ok. This is our new learning, just as they are on their learning.
We never had to experience these feeling around parenting before and now we are learning how to think and sort through the thoughts, and feel whatever we feel. We step forward when we can and other times we collapse into our sorrow. There is no right way here. We are who we are in that moment. The next moment always shows up.
There are no rules. It is a human experience and each of us is different. We do the best we can. Some moments and days are easier than others. All days are what they are.
It sounds so easy, but truth is, when we are in pain, we are in pain. That is why we hurt and feel so terrible. Sometimes we think we could be doing something differently, like get going, or just think of something to do to fill the time, but those are thoughts and they can’t erase the feelings. We are feeling what we feel and that is real at that time…So be gentle with yourself. One feeling doesn’t last forever. The feeling moves on in time and usually quicker, if we drop into that tearful, immobile, uncomfortable place.
Each of us can share what we are experiencing and then we don’t feel so alone in the empty nest.
Letting go is a major learning on the list of life lessons. We can’t avoid it because our children do leave. They leave through college, work, marriage, travel, serving for our country, explorations. They leave.
Sometimes, I think if we knew how terrible the pain is we wouldn’t have become parents. But that is probably why we don’t get access to looking in that cupboard or we might not have chosen to be lifetime parents.
Unknowns are put in life for a reason. Answers aren’t always available. Being loving with whatever we are experiencing is possible. Compassion….kindness….sweetness…tenderness…
May we all find the courage to feel . To be able to tell ourselves…”this is how it is for now and I am ok.” To get the support we need so we don’t feel abandoned and isolated in this new journey of parenting.
May we learn devotion to ourselves, an honoring of other ways of being in this world, and a sacredness of life!
Natalie Caine, M.A. firstname.lastname@example.org