Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Empty Nest

This article in the NYT regarding empty nests was sort of interesting. The premise is that marriages actually improve once the children are out of the house. It also states that there is an adjustment period for mothers, especially. From my own perspective, I find both of these things to be true. When my youngest left for college, I was exhausted. I had recently quite working (Wellness Specialist - at a local hospital in their Wellness Department running first the Travel Immunization Program, later other wellness programs such as Women's Health, blood work, etc.) We had also moved to Portland, Oregon where we had insisted our oldest transfer from the university she had been attending to one where we could keep an eye on her. She was one of those really bright kids that graduated a year early from high school, but had lost her balance in the intervening few years. She was simply too young to handle college. We made a gross error in thinking she was. At any rate, our move had coincided with the last year of our younger daughter's last year of high school. She had attended the same set of schools K-12. To say she was not happy about a transfer to a school in Portland, in the latter part of her junior year, is an absolute understatement. She hated Portland and her new high school. She was lonely and didn't feel like she fit in. She had played varsity soccer all three years at her old school in Reno, and knew she probably didn't have a chance in hell to play her senior year in Portland. Those spots are almost always saved for the students that have played the other two or three years.

So we made a decision to allow her to return to Reno and finish her senior year at her old school. She had to stay with friends that were in the school district in order to play varsity ball. This worked out pretty well. I spent the soccer season at our home in Tahoe, (in order to attend all her games,) and she stayed with said friends. (We had sold our home in Reno, keeping our condo at Lake Tahoe, which is about 25 minutes from Reno.) The problem? At seventeen, and physically away from her parents, she thought she was emancipated. You can imagine the issues that ensued.

So here we were, one daughter drinking too much, partying too much, out of control, living in Portland. One daughter living away from home, too young and immature, to realize she was not capable of making some of the decisions necessary to be truly on one's own, living in Reno. Me going back and forth between Oregon and Nevada. My husband working at a new job, new field, and wondering what the heck happened to our happy little family. By that time soccer was over and we moved her into two of our best friend's home (who have known her since before she was born), and tried to get through the rest of the school year.

My point in all this? An empty nest is not all bad. Our girls have grown up and turned into responsible adults, dealt with their issues, and are just wonderful to be around. But as the article states, it is a good feeling to not be the one responsible any more. We raised them, we did the best we could do, but the rest is up to them. And that is okay, believe me!


California Girl said...

Happy to be the first one to comment on this subject. We are going through alot of what you write about. Our sons are 14 months apart (finally found out what "Irish twins" means). They are, or should I say "were", two years apart in school because we held the younger one back in Kindergarten. He was always very young for his age.

In 2005, the eldest left for college. He moved across country to attend Univeristy of Utah where he could snowboard, skateboard, hike, climb, camp, kayak and, oh yes, go to school. He should be in his senior year but he's been working and taking 12 units per semester instead of 15. He took off this past Fall semester to "find himself". Instead, he broke 3 toes skateboarding down a rail and came home for 5 wks to recup.

The younger one, they are 21 & 20 respectively, has attended two colleges now. He began at one university in Fall 2007, living in a dorm, one state & 90 minutes away. He didn't know anyone and hated it. He tried to drop out mid-semester (this, after securing a $4000 grant + his Stafford loan to attend) and finished with only 2 classes intact. He dropped out and moved to Utah to live with his brother, worked in a parking lot, slept on the floor & came home this summer ready to try college again. We actually thought he was ready.

Back to a new university this FAll. A much more expensive school but with a bunch of his friends. Long story, I know. Cut to the present: he finished the semester w/ 2 Bs, 1 D, 1 F. He was evicted from his apt, is going to trial for resisting arrest when the mgr brought the police to quiet things down (2am party). He's been busted before for underage drinking so there's no getting off easy this time. In short, we're letting him handle it.

Is our marriage better? No. He's back home living with us, working part time. I'm a wreck. My husband and I do not agree on what to do.

I will say our marriage was lovely when both boys were in Utah, too far away to come except to fly. It was grand. So, I believe it can be done but I'm not there yet.

Nancy said...

Hang in there, California Girl! It's hell while you are going through it, but they do grow up! And then the children you raised will come back to you.

Butternut Squash said...

Have you ever listened to 'The Therapy Fund' by Kathy Fink and Marcy Marxer? I think you would love it. It basically says, we did the best we could but now it's up to you. The whole Parents Home Companion CD is pretty wonderful.


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