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Half-empty nest syndrome

I remember when my kids were little and I would talk to parents of teens. They always seemed so… calm? resigned? detached? Parenting little ones was a full commitment, physically, intellectually, emotionally. But clearly parenting teens was something different.

If you have little ones and you’re reading this, you might think that I seem, well, calm… resigned… detached. It’s true, part of having kids who are leaving the nest, as my older one is in a week (gak!), is a process of letting go. And as a friend pointed out to me the other day, I am really letting go. My son is jetting off to the Middle East to study Arabic and regional history and politics.

Going off to sleepaway camp!

This is not at all like sending him off to sleepaway camp.

But sending our kids out into the world is also the culmination of the biggest commitment we can make in our lives: to bring a person into this world that we will nurture and do our best to raise into a functional adult of the kind that we want to be around. I know some people who have had to let go of their precocious ones early, and some people whose teens morphed into mid-20s adults before they were really “out of the nest.” But eventually, this ending, which is really a beginning, will come about. Our newly adult children will go off to college to study with teachers we will never meet or get a job working for people we don’t know. They will hang out with friends whose parents don’t see us at PTA meetings. They will make decisions without even bothering to text us about them.

Cuz is also going off to college! How they do grow.

And it will be good.

I know that I’m not losing anything, and I also know that the job of parenting is never quite over. But I do know that when he steps onto that jet, even though he’ll be back for a few weeks before college, and then he’ll probably be home for holidays, this is the end of something.

And it’s been great. I will never forget the way the pre-mom me laughed off the phrase “the hardest job I’ve ever had,” which so many parents echo. Before I had children, I simply had no idea what this was all about.

My favorite lil’ guy photo.

But now that I am sending one off into the world, I can tell those of you who are in the thick of it—sometimes wondering whether your sanity, your physical health, or your marriage will survive it—that parenting is truly the hardest job.

And truly the most rewarding. The imperfect, complex, still-developing humans that we send out into the world are the result of our hard work. What they do with their lives is their responsibility, but no matter what ends up happening, we parents can know that we did our best with what we had.

Related: A good word about teenagers

Posted in Parenting.

2 Responses

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  1. Dr. Monita says

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Suki! As grandparents, we get to go through the flash of time again! This time, we get to enjoy (and worry) about both our children and grandchildren. But what could be more rewarding in life?

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