Tuesday, February 28, 2012

EMPTYING THE NEST

 
 
Most parents look forward to the day when their children are finally old enough, mature enough and financially able to get out of the family home and into their own.  I am no different.  As soon as my daughter hit high school, I was thinking of ways that I could enjoy my free time and empty nest. I imagined the places I’d go, things I’d buy and people I’d entertain…..any time, any day and any way I wanted to. Then, the day came when I had to drop her off on campus and say (a temporary) good-bye.  The day I looked forward to for so long had finally arrived and what a bittersweet day it was.  I cried (of course) and I think she did too, after we left. The separation was difficult for both of us; easier than I thought for me (probably because she was home every other weekend) and harder than I thought it would be for her (especially since she was home every other weekend). She survived for a little while but, needless to say (if you’ve been reading regularly), she eventually came back home to attend school.  After a year and a half away, she was back in the house and on my nerves, full-time.  It’s been 2 years, a pregnancy and a baby since she came home and now, plans for emptying the nest are back in full effect.
 
When my granddaughter was first born, I told my daughter I would give her 3 years to get herself together and out on her own. I know how hard it is to be a single parent, physically, financially and emotionally and I don’t want to see my girls ‘suffer’ or go through unnecessary hardship. At the same time, I don’t want to coddle (cripple) my daughter to the point where she is too dependent on me.  Besides, I had life plans that she so rudely interrupted by leaving college then having a baby. Those choices aside, I think my daughter is a strong, smart and determined young woman and I want her to become independent sooner rather than later.  Yet, I’ve been worried that I’m pushing her out of the nest too soon. Yes, she’s almost 22 years old and yes, she has a child of her own to raise and yes, she needs to know how to navigate her way through the real world. But, the ‘pains’ of young adulthood and (premature) motherhood are definitely taking a toll.  Like most mothers, my daughter gets angry, frustrated, impatient and overwhelmed by her baby (duties), sometimes. She works and has her own money but still needs Mommy & Daddy’s financial support. She’s had her own room/space for most of her life, but, some nights, she still wants to crawl in bed with me (I probably would do the same if I lived with my Mom).  All of these things, in addition to knowing how cruel the world can be, makes me apprehensive about sending her out there. However, there is much more positive to be said about gaining and sustaining one’s independence. Handling your own business builds strength and confidence and dancing to your own tune (as opposed to your mother’s outdated music) encourages freedom of self-expression. I know it’s important that she build a solid mother/daughter relationship with her own child instead of allowing a big sis/little sis dynamic to take over by default of me being head of household. I want my daughter to know, by experience, that one must deal with the consequences of their own actions. When you choose to become a parent, you choose to become responsible for someone else’s life for, at least, 21 years; and how can one fully take on that responsibility if someone else is still responsible for them? 
 
That being said, I had been wondering if I was trying to make her do too much, too fast. In the past few weeks, my daughter and I have been looking for affordable apartments for  her and the gran’diva.  Every day, I give her some information or recommendation on apartment hunting and I can’t help but think I do it with a tad too much enthusiasm. She never mentioned feeling any kind of way about it, but still, I began to feel guilty.  No matter how many times I was told, ‘That’s just the mother in you….it’s normal….it’s time for her to get out there…..you will be fine and she will be fine,’ the feeling just would not go away. So, I finally asked her, point blank. I said, “Be honest. Do you think you’re ready to get your own apartment?” Her response was, ‘Ummmmm, uhhhhhh, I don’t know.”  “You don’t know!,” I exclaimed.  “Whaddya mean, you don’t know? Either you or you aren’t?”  She chuckled. I then asked, “Well, do you feel like I’m rushing you…pushing you out the door too soon?”  Without hesitation, she said, “NO. No, I don’t feel like that. I need my space, Shari needs her space. We do need our own place.”  “Okay,” I said, “just don’t want you to think I’m just trying to put you out like that.” She replied, “Nahhhhh, I don’t feel like that.” WHEW! As soon as those words were spoken, her assurance given, the waves of my guilt were immediately calmed. She does understand that it’s now time for her to take flight; time for her to make a nest of her own in which she can care for, raise and teach her precious baby. Yes, I look forward to the day I can enjoy the carefree feeling an empty nest brings; still, tears spring to my eyes every time I imagine them out there on their own. I’m sure they will survive and thrive, as many of us do but, as they stand on the landing, ready for takeoff, I want to snatch my little birdies back and never let them go….but that feeling is to be expected……right?