Sitting, Suddenly, in an ‘Empty Nest’

My husband and I recently found ourselves with an empty nest. We knew it would happen eventually, as it does with most families, but it came about so quickly, we hardly had time to register what was happening.

We had often talked about what it would be like when the kids moved out and moved on to live lives of their own. We’d be happy for them and congratulate ourselves for raising caring, capable and productive human beings. Maybe even have a champagne toast. Then we’d enjoy life just being the two of us once more.

It didn’t happen the way we’d imagined.

I had secretly hoped our youngest would stick around a couple more years, but I should’ve known better. Like her sister (and not unlike her mother), she’s feisty and independent. Now 20, she doesn’t abide rules well, and likes to live a life free of being told how she should live it. I don’t blame her, really. I don’t blame anyone. But she ripped off the big-girl Band-aid so fast, it made our heads spin.

We blinked, and she was gone.

I was inconsolable for the first week. My husband did his best to provide the emotional support I needed, while dealing with her sudden departure himself. He hugged me often, and whispered comforting words to me as I wept all over his work shirts. (I’m very lucky to have this man as my partner.) I was just so sad, and I missed her so much.   

A month has passed now, and we still catch ourselves wondering at the strangely quiet house, not to mention our depleted personal schedules. There are no more weekend games or practices, no places to be, no child-related events. We’re working on going out more, occasionally having company over, remaking the rooms a little at a time, and remaking ourselves – also a little at a time.

Our youngest comes by two or three times a week, and texts or calls us almost every day, for which I’m grateful. I don’t know if she’ll be back at some point. My husband and I each returned to our parents’ homes at one point or another in the early years, so I’m making sure not to put too many things into her room for storage, just in case.

As for my husband and me, we’re discovering that we still enjoy each other’s company. We’re laughing more. We’re learning that, while it’s awesome to have all this time together with no kids to distract us, it’s also OK to do things each of us wants to do on our own. We feel less tense. We’re making plans for the months ahead. And we made sure our daughter knew she could come home at any time, for any reason.

For now, she’s living her life of independence, going through the growing pains and surprising realities of what adulthood entails. And while I miss her and would prefer her to be that 10-year-old sassy pants who needed me for everything, I take silent pride in knowing that, because of us, she feels brave enough to take this giant step.  We wish her luck, and we’ll be here for her when she needs us.

About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.
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