Today marks the first day that I am officially an “empty nester”. The last of my three children left home yesterday for college. My older two have been gone for a while. (It’s a 10 year age difference between #2 and #3.)
Last week we were all together for the first time in 6 years! #2 graduated from the Naval Officer training program and I seized the opportunity to create a mini family reunion around the celebration. My Mom flew up from Jamaica and Son #1 and his partner flew in from London. I was in “hog heaven”!
We made the loooong drive up to Rhode Island and stayed together in a large home in Providence that I rented through airbnb. We chatted and laughed, barbecued and played cards in the back yard. We connected with old friends who live in the area and had them over for dinner.
The following week we did it all again at our home in Maryland. What a lovely time!
As our time together drew to a close. I felt the sadness in my heart mixed with the gratitude and joy for our time together.
Son #1 flew out on Thursday evening. #2 flew out early Friday morning. #3 left on Saturday morning.
4:30 am Saturday morning, while making final preparations to leave for the 3.5 hour drive to his college, #3 accused me of trying to ‘micromanage’ him as I was trying to help him get his things together. I flew into a rage and decided not to go. I felt unloved, unnecessary, rejected, discarded, unappreciated.
Even worse, when I announced I was not going, my husband (without asking me why I wasn’t going) accused me of being “childish”. Ugh!! I felt unfairly judged. Now I was mad at him too!
The old, protective doors around my heart slammed shut.
My Mom gently tried to talk me into letting go my upset and come.
I was adamant. Resolved. Completely aware that my heart was closed off and shut down.
Interestingly, I also felt relieved.
I spent the day binge watching ‘House of Cards’ on Netflix. Eating pizza in bed and relaxing.
Initially, I felt a little guilty that I didn’t feel bad about not going.
Then I felt a whisper of shame as the thought “What would other people think?” Crossed my mind.
For a hot second, I imagined that other parents would think that either (a) #3 had a delinquent mother or (b) His mother was gravely ill or dead. (Why else would he be accompanied to college by his father and Grandmother). 🙂
I quickly let that go and dropped into a place of self acceptance. It is what it is. I gave myself permission and the space to just be where I was emotionally. Without judgement. Without needing to rationalize, defend or understand my reaction or decision.
Last night when #3 called on FaceTime, I briefly considered not answering his call (I was still stewing) but was so glad I chose to. He looked so happy as he excitedly showed me around his room! Eventually, as we talked about why I didn’t come, he apologized, saying it was not his intention to push me away. I felt the ice around my heart start to melt.
This morning during my meditation practice, I connected with my heart, honoring how tender and raw it is and held space for that. I was gentle with myself. I was curious about my response the day before.
I began to see that I was physically tired. I was protecting myself from feeling the deep emotions of letting go of my role of caretaker for my children. I was grieving. I was deeply feeling the uncertainty of this new space of transition.
I realized this was simply another opportunity to fulfill an intention I set for myself earlier this year – to get better at leaving and being left. (Since nothing in life is permanent, it would behoove us all to master this skill.)
I am leaning into it, learning to embrace it gracefully and moving through it consciously and compassionately.
Sometimes change is messy. As we let go of the need to “get it right”, or “do it perfectly”, we just get to choose to honor it all as this beautiful experience we call life.
Here’s to messy transitions and the hindsight wisdom we gain from moving through them.