How I laughed when I heard about empty nest syndrome. I left home so early, I simply thought my kids would be out of the house as soon as they graduated – or even sooner. I prepared myself mentally, and I thought I’d encourage them to be as independent as possible. For instance, I stopped cleaning their room and changing their sheets and towels when they hit 13. Teens, I figured, could be counted on to do their own laundry. The results were mixed – it’s true that they learned to clean their room and do their laundry – but there was a time when I could barely stand to peek into their room. Teenage boys are messy!
It is funny, but my twins are like the odd couple. One is neat and tidy, calm and good at fixing things; the other is a messy explosion. They had to learn to get along and share their space – each one making concessions to the other. I remember when I bought them their dressers (no closets in most houses in France). Sebi picked out a blue one, Alex a pine-wood one. Maybe some mothers would insist on getting the same to make the room look good, but I wanted the boys to have their own space within the narrow confines of the bedroom. Their own armoires seemed the best idea. Alex’s was always neat – you had to be careful when you opened Sebi’s. They both did their own laundry, and Sebi became a good cook. Both boys looked after their little sister – both had chores. I felt I was preparing them to leave home.
When they graduated, Alex left for the US for college, while Sebi moved in with his girlfriend and rented a studio in Paris, going to the university there. I missed both boys terribly. Then after two years Alex came home. And so did Sebi. After, they came and went. There was always a room for them at home, perhaps that made it easy for them to leave. I know that when I set off on my own, it was good to hear my mother tell me I’d always have a room in her house. It’s easy to be independent when you have something to fall back on.
At any rate, both are gone now – Sebi and his fiancée bought their own house near Paris, and Alex is living with his girlfriend on the other side of Paris. My daughter is mostly with her boyfriend, so my husband and I are alone most evenings. It’s both nice and sad. I miss the kids terribly, but it’s wonderful to know they are independent. Stef and I play a lot of scrabble (he wins all the time!) and the house is always clean (how did that happen?). But it still feels like an empty nest. I hate coming home after work and finding the apartment empty (and the dog hates it even more, believe me!). I’m sure I’ll get used to it in no time, but I look forward to the days when Sebi drops by, and when Alex comes over (to do his laundry, lol), and going for walks with my daughter and her horse (I’ve been evinced by her boyfriend, I’m afraid!)
So here’s to kids, and to kids leaving home – and to the empty nest, which is both terrifying and peaceful. Here’s to spending more time with my hubby, (and losing at scrabble). Here’s to learning to be alone again – it’s not easy. Tomorrow a friend is dropping by – her kids have left this year too, so we’ll probably talk about them a lot. It will take a while for me to get an identity back – someone separate from her children. I’m sort of happy, and sort of sad about that. But mostly happy. I feel like raising kids was a job, and having them leave the nest means it was a job well done.