No one prepared me for this. When you're pregnant, you have baby showers, people give you advice on nursing, burp rags, diapers, sleeping through the night and baby food. People come out of the woodwork to make comments-some helpful, some not so much. Even when you have the baby you are pummeled with suggestions and opinions, on into toddlerhood, potty training, starting school, tweenage years, junior high, high school...
But no one really prepares you for that final stage... the empty nest.
Don't get me wrong. I have three great kids I know that. They are polite, well-mannered, smart, well-adjusted kids. I couldn't ask for better kids. Really. But, man, I could sure use some emotional, female, support. Where are all the advice givers, suggestion makers, opinionated 'friends' now? Now that I could really use the encouragement that my children aren't really 'leaving', that they are beginning their own lives, doing what they've been raised to do, becoming what I so hoped they would grow into: independent, passionate, eager, hard-working young adults, seeking their futures. Where are all the people who I need to comfort me when I feel like I'm grieving the loss of two children, with the third one so close behind her brothers? Who is there to tell me it's going to be okay when the smile I put on as I wave another one off to college crumbles when he's out of sight into messy sobs?
It's so hard to let them go. It's hard to see them try to practice everything you've taught them, especially when things don't work out the way they had hoped. It's scary knowing all the temptations that are out there, seeking to suck the morals, values and life out of young adults.
I've spent the past year begging for a do-over in some areas and beating myself up in others. I've spent more sleepless nights wishing I had known then what I know now. I've cried myself to sleep aching for the hardships one child or another is experiencing with college, work and relationships.
What I wouldn't give for a crystal ball, showing me even five years into the future to reassure me that I didn't screw up my kids. Ten years would be even better.
It seems like in this season of my life I celebrate the successes of my children cautiously, the reality of the dangers of the world we live in more prominent now than when they were little. It's amazing how even more protective I feel of my young adults than I did when they were small children. When they were all three in car seats at the same time I didn't have to worry about three young drivers in three different cars going to three different places with tree separate groups of friends. It seems like I view every place they go as a potential threat, housing potential predators in an even more potentially horrible world.
What is wrong with me? Most people are changing bedrooms into man caves or celebrating the fact that they were able to raise a human from a baby into adulthood without harming them or losing them for an extended period of time. All I think about is the empty chair at dinner and the gaps in my duckling lineup.
I would love to be able to say that I can see a light at the end of my tunnel, that I can see things coming up roses and all those other stupid adages that I used to use. But I can't. I'm going on three years now since the first one graduated and one year since the second one graduated and it just isn't getting any easier. I only have two more years until my last one, my baby and only daughter, graduates and moves on, wide-eyed and excited about what her future holds