The Empty Nest

So … here I am. One week into the “rest of forever” that is my empty nest. My daughter has settled in at MSU. She is having a blast so far. She has been texting me daily with updates on all of her adventures. She’s figuring out where she likes to eat the most. She is finding her way all around campus and even all around town. She is learning the bus system, and she is figuring out where all of her classes are. Today, she texted me to say that her foot was hurting. She has struggled in the past with stress fractures from marching band and with tendonitis. She has been walking miles (literally!) since arriving at campus, and, of course, this is after being used to over a year of inactivity due to the pandemic and remote learning. Anyhow, she had a plan to find a store where she could get a method to ice her foot and a brace and, possibly, some temporary inserts. She figured all of this out on her own and followed her plan. It was brilliant! I know this seems like a small thing, but I have been really proud of how she has taken charge of things and started “adulting” on her own.

How am I doing, you ask? Overall, I am doing pretty well. I have not cried since dropping her off. This surprises me! I expected I would be in tears all the way home from Michigan, particularly because I cried rivers during the week before she left. I found myself randomly breaking down all during the day. Perhaps it is that our good-bye ended up being rather abrupt and unexpected. We had planned to take her to breakfast or early lunch on Monday before we started home, but we were unable to do this because she had to attend a meeting on campus. Home is a five hour drive, and hubs and I had to be back in time to pick up our dogs from boarding. We ended up having to settle for a quick hug and watching her walk away from the parking lot. It was hard, but it was so fast that I didn’t have time to dwell on it. You know — like ripping a band-aid off in one swift motion. I came close to tears the first night, when I went into her room to clean the cat box and cuddle with the cat a little bit. But I kept it together.

So, yeah. I am keeping it together. I think that’s pretty great, all things considered. For most of our daughter’s life, I basically functioned as a single parent because of my husband’s work schedule and the fact that he traveled extensively for his work. Our daughter and I have always been pretty much attached at the hip. I never thought of her as a “mini-me”. On the contrary, she had her own personality even from a young age, and it has been pretty amazing watching her grow up and become the amazing young adult she is today. But we did everything together. We had little adventures. We both like to write, so we would sometimes chat about those struggles. We both love anime, and we spent lots of time watching different series. So, for all of that to be over so suddenly … Well, you get the idea, right?

The weirdest thing so far is how quiet the house is without her here. She is not a noisy person, overall. She never has been. And she tended to spend a lot of time in her room, living in her head. This is the writer in her. She spends a lot of time writing and working on different projects that are dear to her. I’m the same way. Even so, there is a distinct lack of her presence here. It’s almost palpable to me. I find myself listening for her to come out of her room into the hallway. I find myself listening for her singing as she showers in the evening. I long to hear her laughing as she plays with her cat.

But, you know, it’s not all bad. Of course, I miss her. Knowing she is having such a great time helps with that. In the meantime, the hubs and I are getting to know each other again. We are remembering how it feels to be a couple, instead of the “Mom” and “Dad” we have been for the last seventeen years. We are hanging out together. We are sharing memories and funny stories. We are laughing together and watching movies and eating long dinners. We are spending quality time together — time that often seemed to get lost in the mad rush to get “kid” things done, like school and activities and all the running around that has to happen when you are responsible for a small person.

Our dynamics are changing. And our daughter’s dynamics are changing. Change is hard; this is true. But it doesn’t have to be bad. Eventually, this new normal will just be our regular normal. And you know what? I think that’s gonna be okay.