Monday, September 6, 2010

The Empty Nest

REM entitled one of their albums "Life's Rich Pageant" and, around our household, it's been a catchall phrase for the ups and downs of life.  The day-to-day, everyday trials and tribulations that are all part of existence for good or for bad.  Moving my daughter across the country to go to college would fit within that description, it is part of the life experience.  I know it's not a tragedy in the true sense of the word and I know millions of parents do it every year.  Heck, I did it three years ago with my son.  But this was different.  This was my daughter, my youngest, a truly terrific young lady, and letting go of her is without question the hardest thing I ever had to do.

Tears are welling as I type this and have come on and off throughout today.  I know eventually I'll be able to think of her away without choking up.  That's what I hear, anyway.  But it's the first day home to that tired, old cliche, the empty nest.  But it's not really the home that's empty, but my heart.  I left it on the other coast -- I have no need for it over here.  Occasionally you hear people talk about how freeing it will be without the kids at home, how they can do whatever they want whenever they want.   I don't want to be free.  I like being a mom and all that goes with it.  I  like being on-call around the clock.  I like my kids and I like spending time with them.  They're not an inconvenience, they're the reason I'm here.  I want someone to need a button sewn or a sandwich made or a spider to kill (okay, I can do without that one, but if my husband's at work, I will do my best).  I want to watch whatever video they want to show me or listen to whatever song they want me to hear or just sit on the same couch each doing our own thing. 

When my oldest was graduating, the song that I picked for him was Find the River by REM.  The line from that song, "I have got to leave to find my way," seemed fitting.  Especially for him, moving out and going away did seem like the right thing to do.  I missed him like crazy and it hurt (frankly, it still does), but I could see it as an import life passage.  I guess it's a compliment to my daughter that I didn't feel she had to "leave to find her way."  The song I picked for her was Wonder by Natalie Merchant.  It's a celebration of women, and there is no doubt about the future of the woman in this song, from the simple declaration: "She'll make her way."  The woman in this song is "able" and "gifted," she doesn't have to go anywhere to be the wonder that she is. 

Find the River


I'm not ready to put a positive spin on any of this. It's just sad and lonely and, yes, empty. She has been the light that shined in my life since the minute she was born. She is who I want to be when I grow up. Everyone who gets to meet her over the next four years should come and thank me for letting her go (not that I could have stopped her had I tried!) because you are getting a gift.  My home is empty, like my heart, but the world is a better, fuller place because she is out there. 


  1. ((((Shari))))

    It gets better, Honey, it really, truly gets better.


  2. Shari...this made me cry and I'm sure you are going to get a lot of feedback from other moms who can relate. I can't. I've never had children - dreamt about it my whole life but was not God's plan for me. But I know how much I love my neices and nephews, and my great nieces and nephews - and I just figure I multiply that by a gazillion and I might have an inkling as to what you must feel. It's something I'll never be able to truly relate to. But my heart does ache for and with you and I'm not going to try to give you any meaningless platitudes (right here, I am holding back from typing some cliche just to be a smart aleck but I'm gonna be strong). Every day I like you more and more...and this touched me. And then you go and mention one of my all time favorite songs "Wonder" from one of my all time favorite CD's Tigerlilly...well, I'm speechless (that'll be the day). God Bless.

  3. Your daughter sounds wonderful!I can understand how your feeling as it is really hard when they first leave. My kids are older, but when
    my daughter first went away to college I had that kind of "lost" feeling especially when I would see her empty room. All I can say is, it will get better! I'm sure she will keep in touch with you and she will miss you too! Just remember, she is away from you for a good reason
    and moving on with her life as you know she should. In fact, you probably wouldn't want it any other way in the long run even if it is so tough at first. Now, you will have new and exciting things to talk with her about and just think how exciting it will be when you have visits with her! Take care & I will be thinking of you Shari!

  4. I know that you know this, so please forgive me for stating the obvious: You are so blessed to have a wonderful daughter to let go of. And your heart isn't really empty. That ache you feel is your heart overflowing. I am sure of that.

  5. Shari,

    My sis is going thru the exact same thing. Just packed off her last baby to college. She emailed me over the weekend and told me she didn't know what to do with herself. Her entire life, for 25 years, has been about the kids. She's hurting, sad. Darn. I'm pushing back tears myself here. But I know my sis... and I feel like I've come to know you too. Women like both of you will always grow thru this time and come out from the tears and pain to find a whole new life. A life still shared and experienced with your kids, but also a life that is richer for having let them go. Both of you have tons of new people to meet, to love, tons of new experiences and joys to share... it's all going to be good. My wise Nana once told me - if you're feeling pain, then you're growing. Hang in there! ;-)

  6. Life is really one interesting ride. I've been where you're at and my heart aches with the memory. But it's all for good and aren't we so blessed to have been such an integral part of our children's lives.

    It really does get better with time and the adventure continues. Thanks for sharing.

  7. @CjFan_Audrey (Twitter)September 9, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    What a heartfelt emotional entry :'( One of life's bittersweet moments for sure. You did your job well - the fact that your daughter is finding her independence and finding her way. There will be so much more special moments to come with her, just wait! :)

  8. I feel especially privileged to be in the position of being able to confirm that Shari's daughter is indeed a lovely and special, young woman because I've known her since she was born. This article made me weepy since I not only feel for my friend, but I'm going through the same thing right now, having sent my youngest off to college this Fall as well.
    What bittersweet joy it is to watch our fledglings work hard to achieve so well that they can go off and realize their dreams so far away from us. Shari, I know you share my feelings of pride in our children and that while we stare bleary-eyed and sad at their empty bedrooms, we wouldn't have kept them here for anything.
    Thanks for writing a piece which touched such a chord.