Here it is Monday, February 15, 2016 and in exactly 24 hours I will be bawling buckets of tears as my fourth, and youngest child boards the airplane, which will fly him to his future. My almost 20-year-old, my baby, is leaving the nest. My nest.
I am not really sure if there are any bird species that parent alone, but for most of my children’s lives, I was alone. Sometimes, I was a single mother but most of the time I was just alone. These four amazing creatures often looked at me with the same hope and desperation as featherless hatchlings waiting for a meal. Sometimes, I had a little something to give them but most of the time poverty and fatherly apathy left us empty.
Life was hard. Yet somehow I managed to make it to this all-important parenting moment: empty nester. My final husband will be there to dry my tears and make silly jokes to encourage the healing only laughter will bring. However, I still know my kids missed out on a lot because I was not enough. For a long time, it really bothered me. In the auspicious moments, like today and tomorrow, it still bothers me these beautiful, bright birdies of mine missed out on so much but especially their father. It makes me so mad, even still, that for these big moments they and I stand alone. Fathers of children should be present. Period.
One of the mistakes of my youth was thinking all of that pain would stop 24 hours from now. “Just get that last one gone and then you’ll no longer be hooked to that man.” It was a good lie. One that saw me through many a dark day explaining to him the gas was about to be shut off or that we had no food. But here’s what I know today: Parenting, parenthood, co-parenting does not cease. Ever. For the most part, I know I will continue to do it alone.
My final husband has been an exemplary step-father, but only my three youngest were able to experience him to varying degrees. However, the child who probably needed him the most is the one we are sending off in the morning. There is a marked difference between him and his siblings and for that, I am extremely grateful and remorseful. Don’t get me wrong, even though I was alone I raised some fine people, but with the influence of an active father, I know they would not struggle with so much.
Despite it all, and without any power to stop it, in about twenty-five and one-half hours from right this very moment I will be alone again. This time with a spouse, a companion, a best friend, and a confidant who also has never experienced this same aloneness. To be quite honest there is a tiny bit of fear. I guess it is normal to experience fear doing something you have never done before. I have never lived alone as an adult without the presence of children. The fact that I am feeling fear at all is amusing and curious. Fortunately, we both are up for this new challenge.
As young parents, you think there will be time to get used to becoming an empty-nester. Sometimes, you even dream of the day when the house will be empty, quiet, and clean. The notion becomes your happy thought to help you through the dark days of parenthood.
But, you know what?
This day, my day today is not unlike the day before I brought my first son home from the hospital full of fear and feeling unequal to the task. I was 19-years old that day. Thankfully, I am not nineteen today. I know if I was I would probably make a lot of mistakes being a wife to my husband simply because I have lived through those mistakes already. So while my nest is barren, my future with my life mate is not. I never expected it would all happen with the ticking of the clock though. Tick, tick, tick and a plane are free to fly with my son’s wings timidly spread. That’s it.
As much as I am looking forward to building a life alone with my final husband, I cannot help but look back to all the moments I missed building something better for my children. The most surprising thing about this life moment is how clear and condescending hindsight can be. Somedays it is absolute work to avoid wallowing in regret and sorrow for those missed moments. Those days I know I won parenting do not shine so brightly now. When today, I also know I could have done better.
Today, I wonder if my children will ever forgive me for not doing better.
Today, I know if I remain trapped in that old nest I will miss the opportunity to build a new one.
Today, I am writing it out and I am going to try to leave it all here on this day even though I know it’s fairly impossible to never think of my old nest again. Fortunately, I also know this is not something that requires perfection or success.
Today is all about making it through tomorrow, knowing the tears and heart-wrenching will stop; and rejoicing that I am not alone this time…even though he spilled coffee grounds all over the counter and floor (he’s injured so I know he couldn’t clean it up). My very first thought this morning was, “The mess is never going to end. There will always be spills because there is no perfection…Life is messy and beautiful and even though I would do a million things over again if I could I would never change any of the things that really matter…my kids or my final husband.”
Just me and him. Alone for the first time in our lives. Weird.
Tick, tick, tick a new clock starts…
Tanya Lily Lucas is a color, pattern, and texture obsessed creative/foodie/health blogger who moonlights as freelance writer and ghostwriter for several high-profile clients. She THRIVES chronic medical conditions which thwarted a Master’s degree and eventual PhD in Communication but she now calls the experience one of the best things to ever happen to her. An addiction to Spider solitaire or the ruddy sand of the desert Southwest between her toes are recoveries she will never attempt. Flowers and sparkly things also occupy a too-small portion of her time while she is on the journey of lifetime to regain control of her weight and health. You can follow her weight loss journey at weighinghealthy.wordpress.com.
Photo Credit: Eli DeFaria
An amazing intimate glimpse into your private life with nothing held back, no pretenses. I loved the honesty and emotion in this well written piece.
Sometimes, it’s all about perspective and what you did in telling this story was to allow not only your readers, but perhaps yourself to see the empty nest from both the past and present, eventually looking forward to the future. Thanks for allowing other empty nesters like myself to know we’re not alone.
A new chapter rarely begins without new growing pains.
I wasn’t sure that the tears would stop each time one of my children left the nest. But there is no bigger deal in life than having raised truly good people.
No one tells you just how hard it is going to be when your children leave home. They don’t share the gut wrenching fear that you feel both for your children and for your own future. I didn’t know who I was without children to raise. I’m still finding that out.
Thank you for this article. It’s good to know that there are other parents out there who are going through the same thing.