The female birdies made their way back to the nest this past weekend to travel with the parental units up to watch the male birdie play in a collegiate soccer game. Sounds simple, but this empty nester forgot what it is like to rally the troops and get everyone moving and out the door on schedule!
The two and a half hour ride to upstate New York featured colorful scenery with the autumn leaves. The sun was shining and the children were plugged into iPhones and iPads as the elders listened to their own musical selection on the radio.
The day started out warm and sunny, but once we approached the field, the clouds hovered and the wind began to blow. We cuddled under blankets, with gloves, hats, and scarves keeping us warm. The game was exciting, tough, and very close, but unfortunately our team lost by a score of 1 – 0.
Once the game was over, we finally were able to have the birdies all together. We met at a local Italian restaurant that we had been to before. We ordered tons of delicious food and chatted about the game, what each child was up to, and basically the minutia of their lives. It was fun, as it always is; they managed to subtly and not so subtly jab at each other, give little insults, sarcastic remarks, and joke around, in their typical loving way.
I love our family meals. It is always rowdy; they always have lots to say to us and to each other. We love to laugh at each other’s expense and then hug when it’s time to say goodbye.
We left the boy and drove home, arriving back in Connecticut by 10:00. It was a long day, but full of fun. I wouldn’t have believed that leaving him would be so easy a couple of years ago when I was dreading the thought of the empty nest. But now that I can see how nature is taking its course, and he is separating and growing into a man, I know that it was time for my nest to thin out.
However, for my girls, the fun can never end. I was roped into taking them shopping on Sunday, fulfilling desperate wardrobe necessities, then a trip to the food store so we could make a big family dinner.
We got home, prepared the meal, daughter number two decided to bake the biggest and chewiest chocolate chip cookies I have ever seen, and, miraculously, she cleaned up after herself as well.
How did I do it for all those years? How did I cook a large family meal, night after night, conforming to the changing dietary rules my children were making? One refused to eat meat for years, one had to have a particular fork at each meal, and inevitably a glass was knocked over, commotion overtook the dinner table, organized chaos night after night!
After dinner was over and we gathered to watch 60 Minutes, they contemplated spending the night and taking an early train back to Manhattan the next day. I couldn’t help myself and said, “NO! You need to get back tonight!” You see, I was exhausted from these little birdies and needed to decompress for the rest of the night. For all the years that I dreaded the empty nest, I have come to appreciate that it is finally my time. My time for reinvention, my time for my husband and I to enjoy peaceful evenings together, my time to think about what I want.
Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t trade my family for anything. But there is a time when we need to answer to ourselves. It is our chance to find fulfillment and meaning for the next phase of life. I say, embrace it! Make these years the best ever. Find ways to pursue dreams you never had time for while you were raising your kids.
If you don’t know where to begin, there are lots of ways to gain personal insight and work with people that can help focus and direct you towards a meaningful future. It is not too late. In fact the timing is perfect. It is your time, it is your turn, make it happen…and if you need help, that’s what I do for my new, empty nester career: I gain fulfillment from helping people just like you.
So, at 7:50 they left for the train, headed back to their solitary nests, and I had a few hours to enjoy the memories of a beautiful family weekend, and the peace and quiet of the empty nest.