When our girls were little, one was in competitive skating, forty-five minutes north of where we lived, while the other rode horses, competitively, luckily only ten-minutes from our house, and the baby was in gymnastics, thankfully during the days, which helped limit the after school madness. More nights than not, saw me falling into bed imagining what my life would be like once they were all off doing their own thing. I fantasized about the peace and quiet, all the hours that were spent doing for them, which would one day be spent only as I wanted them to be.
Then it happened.
Seemingly over night, yet with a lengthy lead up, but also without warning, they were all gone. Those of you who have had your nest emptied, will know exactly what that sentence above means.
It began innocently enough. First with them getting their driver’s licenses, so they could drive themselves to work, or movies, and then in Mikaela’s case, cheer practices, an hour west of our place, as well as to school on a daily basis. I found myself kissing her goodbye at the front door every day, instead of the front seat of my SUV. That shift was something that hit me incredibly hard. Brianna was already working full time, even though she lived at home, it was more like she was visiting for dinners, because we rarely got all that “alone” time we had with her when she was sitting around doing homework, or writing papers. Fortunately, Dominique also lived at home while in University, so we still felt like a family, together on weekends, and most evenings seeing us all around the table, having dinner. The changes at first were small, natural segues into adulthood.
But then a huge blow came when Dominique moved to Los Angeles. For the longest time I kept her room set up with all her belongings, pictures and everything that she couldn’t fit into two suitcases arranged in the way she had left them, waiting for her return. It brought me comfort as I walked past her open door every day, because the way my house is built, getting to my bedroom, on my floor, forced me to go past her floor, and empty room. The return never happened, so eventually her furniture was shipped to LA, and her bedroom became my writing room.
Happily, I still had Mikaela, and Brianna. But the year Dominique moved, was also Mikaela’s senior year of high-school, which had brought with it an acceptance letter from her first choice university. Pepperdine. I knew my days of having her under my wing were slowly slipping away. And the panic was real. All the lasts started, last time I would drive one of my girls to school, the last time I would take any of them to a competition, a practice, a party. Last prom dress shopping. Last time hosting a prom party. Last, last, last. And as much as I had fantasized about it when they were little, and I was run ragged, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that would accompany all the lasts. It was much harder than I had imagined it would be.
Then the day came; one humid August summer’s day saw me loading into my SUV four suitcases, her entire life getting on a plane for the move to Malibu. The only thing that would aid in making the baby leaving the nest easier, was that Yannick and I found, and purchased a lovely home, literally ten minutes away from Pepperdine University. We would, for a few months of the year be just minutes away from her, should she need us, or us need her. We would also get the chance to live with Dominique once again during the times that we were in Cali, since she was living in our home keeping an eye on it while we’re in Toronto. It definitely softened the blow, and made the entire thing feel more like an adventure, rather than a giant life shift.
The completion of the life shift happened when we came back from our first winter in LA, saw us return only to have Brianna leave the nest. The same day we moved back in, she moved out. Thank God, Brianna did me a solid, by only moving ten minutes away. What also helped soften the final blow was thanks to her being in her twenties when we built this house, we had made her a “suite” on the lower floor, allowing her privacy, which during the time of my empty nesting, brought me some relief since the only time I had to walk by her room was when I was doing laundry, or felt the need to watch a movie on our big TV. But, what wasn’t quite as easy was with Mikaela gone, it left that entire floor, that had been shared with Dominique, completely empty. No more Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, or Luke Bryan songs drifting out from under her bedroom door. Two full floors of my house now without life, but filled with memories, and ghosts; are finally getting easier to pass as the days go by.
Now that all three girls are gone, our house, which isn’t that big feels incredibly large, and empty. Yannick works most weekdays for as many as twelve, sometimes fourteen hours, has made me realize how deeply thankful I am that he and I don’t like unnecessarily large homes. Because for me, even our modest sized home, all of a sudden feels like a mansion with many wings/rooms that are uninhabited, and despite all my own pursuits, and charity work that I’m involved with, it stills feel lonely. All the romantic notions, I had when I was young and they were driving me mad, about my one day of peace and quiet, isn’t nearly as fulfilling as all the days I had where I flopped into bed exhausted after “one more load of laundry” or from staying up a couple hours later than I had planned because of sitting on their bed, holding them and talking them through a situation where someone had let them down. What I wouldn’t do to turn back time, and have them all home tucked in bed reading one more chapter from their favorite book.
Today’s post isn’t so much about something that makes me go “hmmm.” Rather it is a post to encourage all parents with lives full and busy due to having young people to care for; to take that moment and read a book to your child when they ask, drive to the baseball game and sit in the rain to support them. Stay up and rub their backs when they want you to help them cope with a broken heart. Say yes as often as you can to spend time with them, because your days of peace and quiet are coming faster than you know.