Empty Nest. Full Heart. Quiet Mind.

It’s here, and there is no turning back. The day our youngest of two children left for college, and I had to decorate our Christmas tree all by myself!

I really thought this day would never come!

Joking aside, it’s been about three months since we traveled to New York to drop her off at NYU, and only now have I been able to put fingertips to keyboard and write about it.

What a bag of mixed emotions! On the one hand I’m elated that my girl got to go to her dream school. On the other, I’m sad my dream family is now scattered about this great country; from San Diego to Purdue in Indiana and now all the way to NYU on the East Coast.

Rejoice, though. I’m not going to talk about my youngest daughter’s rite of passage here. I’m going to relate ours: The Empty Nest.

Empty Nest

It’s only been a few months, and frankly the quiet serenity that has engulfed our home is rather enjoyable.

So is my mental silence.

Gone are the daily nagging thoughts which dominated my every waking moment for the last 22 years. Are they hot or cold? Did they eat their lunch? Was that girl mean to her again? Did he get snubbed by the coach? Grades, grades, grades! Pressure, pressure, pressure! Achieve, achieve, achieve! (Granted, not all parents have these demanding thoughts, I know!)

In one fell swoop all of these worries have turned into mindless occupations for me; my daily walk is an hour long; I can write when and for how ever many hours I want to; laundry is negligible; the fridge is stocked and the grocery runs are but once a week.

There’s so much more room in my head, well, for me!

The crowning glory?

I’ve read TWO entire books in three months! Dan Brown’s “Inferno” and “The Book Thief” to be exact — a mighty splurge for an ex full-time mom.

Oh, but I do confess I’ve had a couple of melt downs in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve woken up at 3 a.m. and for some odd reason I start sobbing and miss my chicks. But then it goes away. Except for the puffy eyes, I dive into my next project the following day as if it hadn’t even happened.

What’s that about?

I guess it’s called “letting go.”

The emotions, stress and worry I used to carry for my kids is flowing away in a river of tears.  Thoughts of their well being are slowly being replaced with thoughts concerning my and my husband’s well being.

Remember how you nested when you were pregnant, preparing for your newborn’s arrival? I’ve been doing something similar except I cook and bake!

This Empty Nest has a couple of parents happily enjoying their evenings “binge-watching” (hey, this is an Oxford Dictionary sanctioned word now!) television shows like Homeland, The White Queen, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Dancing on the Edge, House of Cards, etc. and filling their gullets with Pumpkin pie, Brownies, Cheesecake, or Banana Bread — whatever I can bake up!

At a recent dinner party, a friend asked me  how we were doing. She did so in a concerned tone. When I related to her how the calmness in my head and home were glorious, she told me it was noticeable!

“Your husband looks like he’s being tended to,” she told me.

And so it is.

I miss my children more than I can tell you, but it’s a longing not for days past, but for their grown up company and conversations.

This is what I think is rather unfair.

We spent their entire childhood taming our little animals, and then just like that we had to unleash them into the world — hopefully well trained and mannered to be among you.

But we, the parents, don’t get to see much of that adult behavior we so meticulously worked to inculcate into them.

That, my friends, is what I miss.

Not seeing the result of our parenting on a day-to-day basis is rather unjust. We have to trust that our adult children’s’ moral compass is working and they will continue to make good choices for themselves now.

However, what we have witnessed in our visits with both our college-aged children, especially from our senior in college, is a dramatic change from a boy to a very capable man. And after our first visit to see our college freshman, we saw a small-town girl display the qualities of an audacious big-city girl.

And this is infinitely gratifying!

One is ending his college years and getting ready to dive into the real world. I think he’s well prepared to meet you and join the productive ranks. I’m not saying this because I’m his mother (though this bias is just inevitable!), but I think you’ll be quite pleased with the person that’s about to pound the pavement next to you.

As for our freshman at college, so far I’ve loved seeing her blossom in her new environment: New York City. She was the feisty one as a child, and the obstinate one as a teenager. Our battles were fierce to say the least, but also the most fruitful.

I’m still recovering from the social and academic load a teenage girl has to carry, and l am amazed by the way she conducted and carried herself through four arduous years of the social experiment called high school.

Witnessing our kids’ progress long-distance is actually not as bad as I thought. We communicate in modern ways; I can see photos on their social networking sites and know they are happy and thriving (without me) and this makes my heart full of peace and joy for them.

Letting go was a process that started when our first-born left for college three and half years ago and has continued in stages until our youngest also left.

Is it easy? No. But the gratification we feel about putting forth capable and productive children is what we talk about at our tables for two at dinner time.

And it’s simply marvelous!

Now that our full-time job as parents is (kind of) over I can assure you about one thing: The Zen-like empty nest thing is sitting well with us!

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