Many of you, those of you whom this post is intended for, will be crying when you read this. This is not because I am about to dazzle you with the sort of pathos and sentimentality that would elicit that sort of emotional response. You will be crying, because you have already been crying for a few days now.
Hi empty nesters! How are you doing out there?
This is the time of year when many college-age children pack up their tattered belongings and their well-worn rooms and make the momentous leap into adulthood, or at least college. This is also the time where the parents of these children experience the profound sense of impermanence that ultimately comes with parenting. While they may be your children, they are not yours to keep. As big hearted and munificent as this sentiment might be, it is still one hell of a bitter horse pill to try to choke down.
Sure, for many parents this transition heralds a new chapter of freedom in a life that had been structured around dutiful parenting. Time to take up a hobby, reacquaint yourself with your spouse, friends, family, or even yourself. Maybe it is time to rethink career paths, personal relationships, and spiritual wellness, and physical well-being. But really, you have to get through the loss and the crying first.
While I am years and years away from having to scoot my own children out the door, and have somewhat of a luxury in tackling this issue in the abstract. I have seen, firsthand, how incredibly difficult this can be for parents (single parents, and otherwise) as well as children (while it seems that children seem to fare better than their parents). Close friends of mine, who have a daughter who is off to college this week, are having a hell of a time contending (or should I say meeting) with her absence. Even in the age of constant contact (cell phones, email, Skype, Facebook), the physical separation, as well as the watershed nature of the separation makes for a lot of conflicted feelings. But ultimately, a parent’s job is to raise children, guide them, and then launch them into adulthood with relative equanimity.
OK, maybe I didn’t make anyone cry, but I probably didn’t stop anyone from crying either. Instead, I will put it in the reader’s hands to vent, provide support, or debunk the empty nest myth entirely. If you, or your children, are off to college and contending with this sort of passing, we want to hear from you. Is it as wrenching and game changing as everyone says it is? Is it just far too relative to define, or are there absolute truths shared by all? Is advice superfluous in the face of a puffy-eyed parent?