Yesterday, I abandoned my baby. I took my daughter far from home and dumped her in a strange land where she didn’t know a soul.
OK, before anyone calls the police I should clarify that Gwen is 18. And the fact that the foreign land was a college campus might serve to justify my actions to some. But not to me. I am a Bad Mom! How could I abandon my child? After all, she was a bright-eyed toddler just a few days ago. Or at least that’s how it seems.
I should be used to this by now. Our oldest, Liz, is a senior in college. We’ve been to this rodeo before. But it’s somehow different when it’s the youngest.
Everyone we tell about this milestone asks the exact same question: “What are you and Bill going to do now that you’re empty nesters?”
I don’t really know.
We’re at the age where most of our friends have gone through this, and they have lots of good advice. Attitudes are split into two camps: the Yahoos and the Boohoos.
The Yahoos say they couldn’t wait for the kids to get up and out. They gave a big cheer (yahoo – what else) when the last one left. No more teenager attitude, no responsibilities. You get to travel, eat out, and live like a grown-up. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Many fix up their homes, finally getting the kitchens they’ve dreamed of for 20 years. Which will be barely used. It’s not worth the bother to cook for just two. The ratty, sagging sofa with the it-wuzn’t-me mystery stain is out on the curb, and dazzlingly white upholstery is in. Now there’s nobody home to mess it up.
A surprising number talk about rediscovering their love lives, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. The pinnacle of achievement in this category seems to be the 100-yard naked-in-the-living-room dash. If even half of the people who have suggested this to me are actually doing it, the mailman must get an eyeful every day.
The Boohoos, as you might guess, are filled with sorrow. They see the children leaving as a loss – a kind of death. They can’t imagine not being involved in their daily activities.
This is especially hard on so-called “helicopter parents” who are used to micromanaging every aspect of their kids’ lives. You know the type. When the kids were little it was “Play date? I can pencil Liz in on Thursday around 4 between Suzie’s riding lesson and ballet class.”
The hovering parents really need the break more than anyone. Getting into the right college was a full-time job. Between online research, writing essays for the kid and visiting schools from Maine to California, it’s been a back breaking, 2 year endeavor (3 years if you count taking the ACT exam sophomore year for the first couple of tries).
Now what? It’s hard to hover from 200+ miles away – believe me, I’ve tried!
It’s hard, at the end of the day, not knowing that your angels are tucked up safe in their beds. Of course that supposes you are one of the few who can still stay up late enough to greet your 18 year old as he/she comes in at night. Most of us are already in bed ourselves, or dozing in front of the TV looking scarily like our own parents.
In the end, Yahooers and Boohooers alike all assured us of the same thing; you will survive.
So what about me? I’ll be busy, busy. I’m on my way to get some brochures at the travel agent and granite samples at the kitchen store. Then on to Victoria’s Secret for new lingerie, before picking up Chinese on the way home. I’m going to be Yahooing all the way!
Just as soon as I stop crying.