Two years ago, our youngest son came home to live with us while he attended graduate school at nearby Vanderbilt University. Around the same time, our daughter returned to town to take a job and while she didn’t live with us, she lived near us, and we were able to see her regularly. It was my dream: to have one of my kids live in the same city, but not in the same house.
Flash forward one pandemic later, and both have now moved on, leaving our nest empty once more. My daughter has moved back to our hometown of Los Angeles to pursue her dream job and our son is heading off to New York City to find his next adventure. Our middle son has lived in San Francisco for several years now and shows no sign of returning for more than a visit. But you never really know…
It’s hard to explain the rollercoaster of emotions as our young adult children swing back and forth between our home base and the world beyond. Each move brings adjustments to our relationships and just when I think I’m used to the status quo, things change again. I admit freely that I have a hard time turning off the “Mom Button.” In fact, it’s probably never really off, just on idle, always ready to rev back up as needed for a phone call, text, email or a visit.
The goodbyes are the hardest. The ride to the airport feels like a last-minute rush to say all the things I’m afraid I didn’t say and yet, we make small talk to make it seem like just another normal drive. When we hug, I want to hold on to the baby that still lives in my heart and my memory, but I know I must let go of the adult who stands in front of me. During the ride home I feel empty and full at the same time. My arms are empty, but my heart is full of love and pride for the people they are.
I’ve heard it said that if we do our job as parents, they will leave. They will have the tools they need to live independent, productive, meaningful lives. I know it’s true, but it’s still hard. I have always loved having a front row seat to the best show in the world, watching my children grow up. Well, that show is over and now I get to watch from the wings as they take center stage in their own lives. And let me tell you, it’s a really great show.
So, here I am again, putting parts of the house back together after our son created his own little upstairs bachelor pad. It’s a good time to re-evaluate how we will continue to live in our home, to reclaim it for ourselves and decide what will be relegated to storage or trash and what will remain. I admit I’m looking forward to a little more calm; young men expend a surprising amount of energy just entering a room! I look forward to less laundry, smaller food bills, a neater kitchen. I will miss having our own in-house DJ on Sunday mornings, and personal tech support when I need it. I have loved chatting with my son over lunch, watching reruns of our favorite TV shows and movies. Like many people, we have a mountain of completed puzzles from our months stuck in the house and each one will remind me of this difficult, yet special time.
I guess the thing I think about the most is how lucky we are to have children who still like to come home and reconnect with us. Although we don’t live in their childhood house anymore, they have taught me that wherever we are together as a family is home and I look forward to gathering someday in one of their houses. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what comes next for all of us.
About Barbara Dab
Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant. She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner. Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world. The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58
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