On this glorious Boston day that feels like Summer with sailboats on the Charles River and many Bostonians coming out to absorb the sudden intense warmth of a bold Spring sun, we ambled along the Charles River on the way back to our hotel, since Caroline had a 6 PM flight out of here. Whereas everything is blooming like crazy in California already, here the buds show promise but haven’t come out quite yet:
This may be a proper metaphor of when your kids are in college. It’s kind of an in-between phase between adolescence and full-on adulthood and blossoming in adulthood. As parents and recent empty-nesters, we may feel a limbo of sorts. We have “launched” our kids into the real world but it’s a test run and the umbilical cord hasn’t been cut completely.
We’re there might they fall in a way that we may be less there when they are older adults with families etc. And this triggers all sorts of mixed emotions. Mind you, Jon and I are very lucky in that we have two determined and independent kids who have found a thing in life they love to pursue– they’re strong individuals, they’re grounded and they’re real, so I don’t expect great adversity, but theoretically speaking, anything could happen and we, the helicopter parents, often become the safety-net parents because millenials, like no other generation before them, have become the boomerang generation (i.e. returning home after college, to really get launched in phase 2).
So for many parents, the initial empty nest is a pretend-empty nest where you won’t just yet convert your kids’ bedrooms into office space, a sauna or a scrapbooking room (god forbid), as they might come back.
This also makes the process of cutting the umbilical cord more complicated and every time I say goodbye to my kids, like just now, when I see Caroline drive away in a Lyft to the airport, my stomach drops for a moment and a brief moment of melancholy sets in.
As mothers who have held them as babies in our arms, a sense of vulnerability returns every time we say goodbye when we know we may not see them for weeks or months at a time. It’s the letting go– it gets easier over time, but there’s a twinge, a pull, a momentary tearing up and a little prayer you send along with them as they drive away or walk away from you, eager for the horizon, while you turn around to observe the setting sun.
This is metaphorical too, because every new departure from you is a form of progress for them, while we retreat in the autumn of our lives. Hence the empty nesting and post-empty nest is also a form of coming to terms with aging and our own mortality.
I can tell I’m bringing you down, which is not my intention. It’s the normal cycle of life, and boy, we ain’t dead yet.
We’ll meet Will for dinner on Beacon Hill and can’t wait for our next reunion and the stories they trust us with about their lives. We can’t wait for their success but we’ll be there too when there are bumps in the road. And there will be bumps in the road, but I hope they know we’re a team and that there’s nothing so crazy or scary that they feel they can’t share it with us.
Our job is partly done, but some of the work is still ahead. And I’m looking forward to that part because parenting is never a thankless job but always the best and most important job we get to do.
Until then, I’d say I can’t wait to meet again.