Monday, October 17, 2011
Empty nest secrets. Revealed.
I stopped to talk to a neighbor today, and found out both of her children have left home to go to college. Both of my children have left home, too. As we talked on the street corner, we both discovered a few things nobody tells you about having an empty nest.
One, it’s quiet. Very quiet. After years of children laughing, crying, playing, shouting, running, jumping, dancing, drumming, singing and non-stop video gaming going on, it stops. It’s silent. And even with careers, friends, animals and spouses, you’re not prepared for this kind of quiet. As she said, “I’ve never had this kind of time and a quiet house. I can eat whatever I want. I can do whatever I want. I don’t know what to do!” It’s freeing and spacious and relaxing and un-nerving.
Two, it’s a mess. A really big mess. After years of growing babies, little children, teens and young adults playing and eating, going in and out, it’s dirty. Even if you taught your kids to put toys away, clean the bathroom sink and sort their clothes, you’re not prepared for the mess they leave behind. As she said, “It’s good to know we’re not the only ones cleaning, painting and packing up boxes for goodwill.” It’s a fresh start, yes, after a whole lot of elbow grease.
Three, it’s a project. A big project. Remember how much work it was to put together the nursery, redecorate for big boys and teenage girls, well, it’s time to do it. Again. Only this time, you’re doing it for yourself. As she said, “My husband said that this is the last time we’ll have to do this, because they probably won’t be coming back home.” Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes, they leave for a year or two and come back. Sometimes they get a job and lose it or married and divorced and come back home. Sometimes they leave and don’t come back home.
Either way, as long as I’m alive, my kids will always have a home they can come home to, whenever they need it. And I look forward to having them all come over for dinner, holidays and birthdays when they can, and I’ll revel in the mess, noise and confusion.
It was quiet, then noisy, and quiet again. Clean, messy and clean again. It’s home; furnished for entertaining adults, then for kids playing with toys and games, and entertaining adults (and children now adults) again. It’s still a nest, too, cozy and clean. Although it’s not as full as it was before, it’s not totally empty, either. There are two of us, still here. Enjoying newly redecorated rooms, a clean space and quiet…Shhh…don’t tell the kids, ok? (More on re-nesting coming soon.)