It is back to school week, and Facebook is covered with shots of first day outfits and scholars. Posts are appearing from the mothers of kids who have launched, from kindergarten to college/university. At both these ends of the range, the youngest scholar leaves behind an empty space … either a half day with no children at home or a home with no children in residence. An empty nest. But not forgotten. You think and worry and hope – eggshells in the nest.
I have experienced both these vacancies. I still remember launching the YD both into junior kindergarten (she was determined to walk to the school BY HERSELF, Mommy) and driving away from her first-year university residence after she had almost literally shoved me into the car and sent me on my way. The similar launches of older siblings are not quite the same as those moments. The empty house echoes, what to do next becomes a decision rather than a response and you find yourself shopping, cooking and doing the other household chores differently, to name a few changes. And you wait. You wait for the door to slam, the phone to ring, the mailman’s thump (yes, remember snail mail), the in-box to ding. Sometimes the response is not good when it comes, but usually all the worrying you have done was to no purpose and the launch successful. And then you watch them soar, caught between pride and loneliness.
Both of the classic launches are a long way behind me and since then there have been more departures of adult children to jobs in different countries, on different continents, to a different (married, perhaps) life. In all cases, for me, I have been left with some echoes, lots of left -over packing material and, frequently, the contents of a frig, house plants too big to move, or winter gear (not needed in Africa). Once I was left with a house to sell. From time to time I have had a grandchild or dog and cat to mother while their real mothers did something else. And, always, they come back. Not to stay, except for a short time, but for long enough to tell stories of their adventures.
I am an old lady – watching the fledglings flap away happened long ago. But watching the next generation fly is very much with me. And the grandchild is a constant source of wonder and pride. Her wings are growing. Soon she will launch herself. I hope to be there to see it, as my parents and in-laws were there to watch our daughters and savour every moment, good and bad.
Yes, they may land with a thump on their beak the odd time, be forced down into thorny branches, be battered by storm and rain, take the wrong direction for a while. There is no such thing as a perfect life or even perfect safety. Mostly they will manage. Often they will overcome.
So, mother of a freshman newly installed in a dorm with in-bed computer access, mother of a grade seven dressed in high style for her first day in middle-school, mother of a Grade 3 who got a fine teacher, mother of whomever, relax. You may have egg shells at present, but soon you will hear the whoosh of wings and the stories will start. And you will be proud of their grace and strength both when you welcome them and when they swoop off again.
I have certainly squeezed every nuance possible out of this metaphor. I can almost hear my mother telling me so. Eggshells are fine things on their own.