My experience so far this school year is that the definition of having an “empty nest” is different than what I thought it would be. I’ve been in total denial of the concept of it for several months now. In some ways this has turned out to be a good thing.
When I looked at Sparkle, my younger daughter, last night as she walked through the door at 12:30, after the long drive from Greenville to Myrtle Beach, which was made even longer because of a standstill traffic jam somewhere on I-20, I said to myself, “OMG, this jewelcake daughter of mine looks like a JUNIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL.”
This, of course, makes sense because she is a junior in high school.
It took her living away at boarding school and coming home to this place where I still imagine her eating waffles or playing with playdough at the counter wearing a princess dress and tiara, for me to see it. And see it I did at that precise moment last night as we greeted each other in the laundry room.
Sixteen year olds, if they’re well-adjusted anyway, usually don’t occupy themselves with playdough or catch frogs or wear tiaras. Logically I only kind of know this.
She was exhausted. Old patterns never leave, apparently: I cringed at the sound of my own voice telling her to wash her face and brush her teeth. I tried not to be too disappointed when she did not want to hang out with me, instead wanting to go right to sleep. I was wired from waiting for her to get home, so I watched an episode of Dance Moms I had already seen by myself.
Now it is almost 1pm the next day. I’ve been up since the dog needed to be let out at 7, and Sparkle is still asleep. I tried to wake her about an hour ago, but didn’t try too hard. There is nothing she has to do today. She is 16 years old, and 16 year olds if they are healthy and happy, sleep very well.
So why has my own denial of the empty nest been a good thing? That story can only be told in bits and pieces that seem like nothing, but eventually, whether I want them to or not, will add up to something that I will look back on and call my life. Parents of teenagers and empty nesters, I can say this much: Rest assured that your babies will need you in their lives for a long long time.