In ten hours, I will be meeting a group of moms at the base of Cowles Mtn. for our annual first day of school, Moms and Mimosas, hike. It’s a treasured tradition that dates back to our kids’ elementary school years. For the past 10+ years, we’d chat and compare notes as we scaled the mountain. We talked about our kids’ ups and downs, milestones, social experiences, teachers and classes. We know one another’s kids almost as well as we know each other. And, until our oldest got their drivers’ licenses, we also knew we had to minimize our Mimosa’s because we’d be driving to pick up our little ones in short order.
But this year will be different. It is the first year we will be hiking with our oldest kids having just left for college (or in Europe in my case); almost every single one of us has an emptier nest. Wow!
Having only been an emptier nester for about a month, I am still a novice and learning how to navigate the change. I encountered my first challenge very early. Tara was barely gone for a week, touring in Barcelona with a girlfriend, when she stopped abiding by my one rule: text me when you get in at night (you know, so that I know you are safe, i.e., alive 😊). Her travel friend was texting her mom, but Tara wasn’t consistent. And I was at home getting angry at Tara who was halfway around the world.
My husband was both sympathetic and a bit incredulous over my frustration with Tara and my attempt to still exert control. He was advising me to let her be and to respect her new adventure. When I spoke with a Zen teacher with grown kids of her own, she shared two bits of advice I found very helpful:
- She acknowledged my maternal inclination to worry, but she also offered me a way to reframe that. She suggested that I “send Tara love, not worry.” In other words, instead getting caught up in my worry and projecting it towards Tara, I can focus on my love for her and get immersed in that.
- She also shared that when her own daughter travelled, she would pray that her daughter cross paths with kind people.
These two simple suggestions, practiced together, allowed me to relax my mental grip, focus on love, and let go a bit more. And coincidentally, Tara became little better at sending those nighttime texts.
I found these less conventional suggestions to be very helpful, so, I am sharing other wonderful writings on navigating the emptier nest.
Though the empty nest traditionally refers to children leaving their childhood home, I feel the terminology and experience is more universal. When your parent passes or loses her faculties, the nest empties. When you divorce or a spouse passes, the nest empties, too. And certainly, when a beloved pet passes, the nest empties.
I hope you can all find some comfort in the words of others who have navigated this transition. Wishing us all presence to the sadness and sweetness of our emptying nests.