Cries, hugs and goodbyes. 'Tis the time to send your children off to college. After years of driving, cooking, comforting and parenting, they finally leave. Just like that. Well this is not an article on being a parent and dealing with your kids leaving you. Because guess what? I have no kids. I am a 17-year-old. But, I can relate to the concept of "empty nesting." What is empty nesting? Well by definition, empty nesting is, "The stage in a family's cycle when the children have grown up and left home to begin their own adult lives." Yet what people always fail to put into the equation is the notion of empty sibling nesting.
For my whole life, I have always been the baby of the family. I have two older siblings: My sister Nina, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, and my brother Jack, a sophomore at Tufts University. When my sister left for college, I was just entering high school. It was odd having only four places at the dinner table. It was as if we were waiting for the messiah to come to dinner each night. It was tough for both my parents to let go of their first child and only girl. For my mom especially, this change was incredibly difficult. As my sister was off transitioning, it was now my brother's turn to start thinking about colleges.
When my brother was accepted into Tufts in 2014, I could already feel the change comin' in the air. When my sister left, I still had my brother around to annoy and hang out with. I still felt like a kid, as I had the benefits of being the youngest sibling still, and the opportunity to learn from my older siblings successes and mistakes. As soon as he got that acceptance letter, I knew my life was about to change forever. My two best friends were actually leaving me. I was the last bird in the nest. A few weeks prior to dropping my brother off at Tufts, my family went on vacation. Jack and I were sitting in the hotel room together, when he turned to me and said, "You realize that this is like our last family vacation before I go to college." I laughed and shrugged it off, but I never really told him how it made me feel. I was not prepared for such a change.
Dropping off my brother was probably one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. It was really happening. I was not prepared to return home with just my parents. The family unit was drastically changing. In the family unit, there are two teams. The parents and the siblings. My whole roster was leaving. I was the only player on the field. Of course my whole family sticks together, but it was odd having the balance completely shifted.
Being the youngest and having your siblings leave is not an easy thing. I used to joke that I would tear the walls down that were my brother and sister's rooms, and make one giant awesome pad for myself. Obviously I would never do such a thing. The change is not easy, for both parents and younger siblings. I do not want to get too Bar Mitzvah speechy on you, but while siblings do fight, they really love each other. Younger siblings like myself can learn a lot from their older siblings. Having this support group suddenly leave is life-altering, but knowing that you will see them again over holiday breaks is always comforting.
The main takeaway here is that little siblings too are affected by the nest being emptied. So big siblings, comfort your little ones. Because you probably don't realize the enormous impact that you have on their lives.