The Really Empty Nest

Over the July 4th weekend, we helped our 21-year-old daughter move to the metroplex. She now lives a 4 1/2 hour drive away from us with her boyfriend. She is looking for a post-graduation job, and they are looking for their first home together.

To say that I have mixed feelings about this newest development is a definite understatement. I am pleased that she is adult enough to have pulled it together and graduated. I am pleased that she feels ready to move away, find her first professional job, and take care of herself.  I am pleased that she found and values a boy who seems to be the yin to her yang. I know that is backwards, but he is the grounded, nurturing one and she is the volatile, fiery one, although I have seen them change roles. They have been together for over a year, through serious illnesses, family holidays, cross-country travel, the mixing, matching, and ditching of friends, a move for a job by him and the resulting distance relationship. They have both unpacked and sorted emotional  baggage, and had discussions about their future that indicate similar values, desires, and long range goals. He really seems to be an excellent match for her. So why are my emotions mixed? Why is joy for her not the only emotion I feel? After all, I have prepared for this since she was born…..

Practically, I am still very concerned about her health. Six weeks ago she hemorrhaged and almost died from complications from a tonsillectomy, and then resisted taking care of herself with all the fierceness of a young adult sentenced to imprisonment in her parents’ home.  Her hemocrit level is almost back to normal, she has more or less recovered that feeling of invincibility that makes young adults both so charming and so annoying, and she is no longer as pale as a ghost. Still, she is not 100%, and I find it hard not to want to keep an eye on her – to make sure she is eating the right foods, drinking enough liquids, still taking iron supplements. She has chronic depression, and usually does well with medication, but stress can increase symptoms. She is looking for a new job, house, and adjusting to a change in her most significant relationship as well as to a new geographic location, so I worry…..

Honestly, the biggest problem for me has nothing to do with her physical or emotional well being. The biggest problem is that she is still my little girl. Intellectually, I know that she no longer needs to be hauled to ballet, or gymnastics, or Girl Scouts, or play rehearsals. She no longer needs me to bandage her knees, or make chicken soup, or watch her favorite movie or TV show with her when she is sick. I know she no longer needs me to help her with her clothes or her hair on those dress up occasions. I know she is a grown up!

So, like all the mothers before me and all the mothers to follow, I have reached the point when I have to let go – she has the intelligence (and the stubbornness – note the photo) to succeed at whatever she wants. She knows that we are here if she needs us. We will help her ferry the remainder of her belongings, including her aged cat and her 105 lb dog, to her new home when she is ready.

It is time for me to settle in to the really empty nest, and adjust to being at a distance from the daily ins and outs of her life. She does, after all, have an IPhone – so voice, text, and photo are all just a touch away.

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