When my nest emptied out the first time I was ready. First, my oldest went off to college, and a year later her sister followed. I was no longer a taxi driver, and I could use any bathroom in the house! It’s not that I didn’t miss them, but it seemed so natural, and they were each happy where they were living the college life. Neither went very far away for school, so I could visit fairly regularly. In fact, having an empty nest allowed me to make choices with mainly myself in mind for the first time in a while. I sold the family home, and eventually changed jobs and cities.
Over the next few years my daughters travelled around the world and I got to visit them. My oldest lived abroad for five years after college, and my youngest spent two six-month periods away as well. I missed them, yet they were so happy that I couldn’t feel too sad. Skype became our connection, and it was great! We could talk and see each other. What a wonder!
And then my grandson was born. My younger daughter gave birth in her hometown in California, and I had since moved up to Oregon. For the first nine months of his life, I drove 10 hours each way to visit quite often. We also Skyped, and the first time they flew up to see me, when I came into the terminal and met them, he reached out his little hand to touch me with amazement that I was actually real and not in the computer. When he was just nine months old my daughter told me she had found a job in Portland and that she and my grandson would be moving in with me.
When the Kids Come Back
Now, I had been an empty nester for about seven years, and at that point I was in a small, one-bedroom apartment. Somehow everything fit, and the three of us even found a way to sleep in my queen-sized bed. Within a few months I decided to buy a two-bedroom place so that we could spread out a little, something I had not even thought of when my nest was empty.
They stayed with me for a little over two years. One time my daughter asked her son who his parents were and he answered, “You and Grammy”. I was grandma, I was mom, I was grandma-mom. I didn’t get to be the spoil-them-and-give-them-back kind of grandma, but I got to see him every day. I got to hug him, and hold him, and play with him, and parent him when needed. It was an unexpected fortune that I will always treasure.
I wasn’t necessarily ready for the sleepless nights or the early morning wake-ups. Changing diapers again was not my plan at that point in my life. But the early morning wake-ups meant Chai at Affogato on Saturday mornings while mommy slept in. They meant singing our favorite songs together as I drove him to preschool each morning. They meant so many cuddles when cuddles weren’t a part of my life. I got to be a part of the wonder of early development. First words, first steps, the discovery that only toddlers can do with such verve! I did not plan on ever having that opportunity again. My kids were grown. I had done that.
And Then Leave Again
And now, my daughter and grandson have left the nest again. It is not my first time doing this, so why is the emotion different? Is it my age? Is it my understanding of a part of my life that is finished? I am happy to have this freedom to write and paint and sleep-in. I am happy that they have a space of their own back in my daughter’s hometown in California, with a pool to swim in every day.
Yet, this time there are tears with the empty nest that were not there before. This time FaceTime just doesn’t quite cut it. I can’t cuddle with my grandson on my phone. With every closeness comes the possibility of separation, and I feel it.
I wouldn’t trade the years they were with me for anything, and I wouldn’t trade this empty nest either. Both have their place and both give me something that I need. I am grateful.
Tara McDaniel, poet, healer, artist and teacher, is a NIASZIIH healer practicing in Portland, Oregon (at Shanti Om Massage & Ayurveda Services). Learn more here. Meet her on her Facebook page and learn more about her healing. Also, look for more from her here at Me-At-Last!