Preparing for the Empty Nest and Big Changes

copyright photo beabe thompson 2014

One of the nicest things about losing my retail business last year was being able to spend time with my youngest son. Being away from my family to run a brick and mortar store in Houston was a huge source of stress, and sacrifice for my husband and sons. My family didn’t like it, I felt angry and guilty about it, and my children got older. I missed out.

There are a lot of regrets about opening the business. Rarely are potential store owners convinced about the toll it will take on relationships; most of us swallow the idea that we “can have it all”, when in essence it’s impossible. No one can work twelve hours a day and still spend quality time with children without feeling rushed.

I’ve spent the past year with my youngest getting to know him, going to school functions, meetings, volunteering for his organizations, and feel spectacularly blessed to be able to do so with my husband’s support. The coming trip to take him to Massachusetts for university will be less painful, not painless, for having had that year. When I let regret set in, it reminds me of years of missed opportunities with both of my sons, none of which can be gotten back.

In my heart of hearts, I’d hoped that he’d stay in Texas and go to the University of Texas at Austin, where he’d been accepted in their prestigious McCombs School of Business. It was not to be. He’d been accepted to USC, Fordham, UT, and Northeastern in Boston, and the later was the school he chose. It wasn’t hard to see why he’d fallen in love with NU: between the reputation of Amore-McKim School of Business, amazing co-ops, amazing meet and greet in Houston, followed by a campus visit, I wanted to go myself. Going up to Boston with family for orientation was the clincher. Beautiful historic city, wonderful campus and faculty, seafood so good it made my heart sing, my son fledging and finding his place in the world. What could be better?

As a parent, I console myself to losing him to adulthood in that his dad and I’ve done our job getting him ready for this day. Healthy parenthood thought says we rear them best we can, then set them free. But wow, it does hurt a lot.  I will miss him terribly, from his jokes, good company, funny stories, love of good food, and general sweetness.

The first day he went off to kindergarten, I waited until the bus had rounded the corner before breaking into dance. Having the day to myself had been a luxury unknown since becoming a mother, and I was drunk on the possibilities of my day. By the time the big yellow school bus was due that afternoon, I was a twitching nervous wreck. When his elder brother popped off and C. was missing, my brain almost exploded. Where was my baby? My cell phone started ringing in my hand; somehow he’d not been put on the bus, and his two teachers were frantically trying to contact me. He was shaken but okay when I roared up to the school and grabbed him.

There will be no dancing in the street when we finish moving him into the dorm. Tears will be shed, regretful hugs will be given to him, wine or gin will be guzzled by my husband and myself later that day. We’ll halfway sadly toast parenthood.  Just like a huge part of my heart is in Austin with his elder brother, a huge part of my heart will be left behind in Boston. It will feel like surgery without anaesthesia, but somehow we’ll survive.

All the former days and nights of reading to a little boy, helping with homework, going on field trips, sharing smiles with his dad at his boyhood antics have led to this transition into manhood. Just as his brother did, he will find his way in the world, independent of us, and make it a better place for his being here. 

Thanks, C., for being such a wonderful guy. I love you to bits.

Mom

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