The Family Forum: Empty Nesters: Fight the “I Miss My Kid” Blues
It’s something that happens to all parents…their kids grow up. Yours will, too.
No more precious pudgy babies.
No more classroom parties.
No more school dances.
We think we’re ready for it, but usually we aren’t. It doesn’t matter how old a child is, we always, in some small way, feel an absence when he or she isn’t there.
My older son — the one who no longer lives with us — recently came home for a visit when he had a break just before starting a new job. For two weeks I listened to him and his little brother bicker. I listened to a 21-year-old (who thinks he knows everything) tell me what I’m doing wrong in paying bills, picking out cars, and more.
It was two weeks of feeding four mouths instead of three; buying more food at the grocery; turning off more lights that were left on in the house; and picking up more trash that was lying around.
Here’s the thing, though: the MINUTE he pulled out of the driveway headed for his next adventure, I fought the urge to chase his car and yell for him to come back.
My mind immediately went to things such as:
What’s he going to do if he gets sick?
Will he like his new job?
Will he find a girlfriend?
Does he know to not put aluminum foil in the microwave?
Will he miss me?
Never mind the fact that he’s lived on his own for a few years now.
How, exactly, am I going to handle it when my last child moves out? HOW?
I’m going to give myself a heart attack with all the worrying, and I still have years to go before my eighth-grader leaves as well.
I recently read some great advice from Diane Schmidt at TheSpruce.com. She suggested those of us with older kids are still important to them, that we’re fulfilling the same roles we filled before, only in a different way. We’re STILL watching out for them. We’re STILL providing a safety net.
Once parenting becomes more of a “part-time” than a “full-time” obligation, she said we can at least try to fill the holes in our lives by “making a list of things you want to do.” She suggested including hobbies, house improvements, books or courses you’ve put off because of time, or other interests.
Parents who have seniors graduating this spring and moving on soon to college or first jobs should take heed of this advice. It’s now time to focus a bit on improving yourself. It will help in dealing with the absence of someone you love.
I plan on celebrating this new “adult” step in my child’s life — a new job — by beginning to CELEBRATE instead of worry about this new role I have as his “part-time” parent.
I still have one child at home, but I’m hoping I’ll be more prepared — and less worried — when my last baby bird flies the nest.
Or, at least that’s what I tell myself.
Melissa Carrigee is the author of “I Dream of Dragons” and the proud mother of an Air Force Airman and a totally awesome eighth-grader. Between baking cookies and writing her next book, she walks her bulldog and listens to ‘80s music.