Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Emptying Nest Syndrome

A few times this summer, it has been quiet around my house. Really quiet. Too quiet? I don't know. I guess over the past 22 years of parenting, I had forgotten what quiet sounds like.

The first time we experienced that quiet was when our older two moved out the fall of 2007. Jana, to married life with her husband, who had just returned from his Navy station in Italy, and Daniel, to his first stab at living on his own. For a parent, it feels like cutting off an apendage. To a child, it is the most liberating, exciting time of their life, and they won't ever fathom the pain until they are on the other side of that last mournful wave good-bye.

The changes in the household from 6 to 4 kids were amazing. The kids had to readjust their pecking order, I adjusted on the grocery buying, and bedrooms were rearranged.

Saying good-bye to our Amazing Grace.

Then, this summer, we went from 4 to 2, with the teenage girls spending their summer working at Bible camp.

Actually, I should have said, it is quieter. There are two kids remaining at home, Jon and Rebekah. It gets quiet when they are outside and I have locked the doors. I mean, shut the doors. Or, if I let them watch a movie, just so I can watch the air traffic clear of sound waves.

But, with two kids, instead of six, it can get quieter faster and easier.

But, other's gain is our loss.

There is no more giggling and taunting of teenage sisters.

There is no more rousting piano playing ending with the signature bang in frustration on the keys. (Grace)

There is no more whining DA-A-A-A-UH-A-D (Beth) and temper tantrums. (Beth and Grace) They learned at a very late age how to do this from Opie on an episode of Andy Griffith. It is actually pretty cute when they are teenagers, on their tummies, banging hands and feet while asking for money they know they won't get, giggling so hysterically you wonder if they are still breathing.

Nobody asks for the car keys.

My credit card is always where I put it in my purse.

Nobody is leaving the flatiron plugged-in and dangerously hot in the downstairs bathroom.

There are no girl voices disputing over who messed up their bathroom.

There is no makeup in the sink, on the white rugs or spilled on the floor and in the drawers of their bathroom. By the way, why did I let them choose WHITE rugs?

There are no personal items hanging in the laundry room.

My foyer no longer looks like a shoe store.

My sniffer hasn't traced any moldy food or cups of unknown substance to girls bedrooms for weeks.

Then, again, there's the downside.

One morning I went into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, and there was a head of lettuce in the colander, right where I left it while making dinner. Nobody followed me around and finished those things I intended to do but forgot. With three women in the kitchen we work together wonderfully and easily. We each make one thing for dinner and we have a great meal. We each pick up a little and the house looks great.

Another day, the phone rang and rang and rang and rang. I actually had to answer it. There was nobody inside.

I had to drive Jon to all baseball practices and games at the end of a busy season. I've done all the shopping and all the errand running.

I'm doing dishes again, something my husband delegated out of my hands after baby #6 was born.

Instead of life being easier with two gone, it is harder. It is different. Yes, I love the help. My girls are incredible. But, I miss their presence in my life. I miss their smiles, their giggles and even their pretend fights where they try to criticize each other in very poorly spoken Spanish.

I love having my car keys and credit card back, but I miss my girls.

To console myself, I sometimes let the younger two watch another movie and sit and listen to the quiet.

I'm torn. I love the quiet, but to have the presence of quiet you have to have the absence of children. Have to. Those two entities cannot co-exist.

As I try to get used to the eery presence of quiet I try to fathom how I would be able to live with this every day of my life. If the emptying nest is hard, the empty nest will be painful.

So, I purpose to enjoy it while it lasts. We will all be home together soon and all I will have is memories of silence.

Precious memories. Precious memories of a painful future.


  1. I know I have a few years, but it made me sad to think of everyone leaving someday. :-) Good reminder to live in and enjoy the moment.

  2. It is the life I've had daily for 17 years. Growing up with 6 siblings and only having 1 child overwhelmed me, the quiet. I'm now used to it just fine.
    Miss you!

  3. I've been thinking about this very subject alot lately. With Joey graduated, I am half done and thinking homeschooling will now be a breeze -- only 4 left and no toddlers. Then it hit me (and this applies to you, too) I still have more children to being to adulthood than most people EVER have.
    Last spring when the flood hit, I actually had all of my children living in our house for the first time ever. I remember thinking, "Now the world can come to an end because I know where all my children are." Well, the world didn't end, the older ones moved back to their own spaces again, and my house seemed much emptier even though it still contains 7 people.
    I guess it's all about perspective!
    We've lived through a lot of life's phases together, my dear sister-in-law, and I guess we'll live through this one, too. I'm just so glad we've gotten to share our lives.

    Love and prayers,


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