Squawk Radio

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I'm up! I posted this just before we drove our daughter to her junior year of college last summer. I didn't expect her to be back this summer but guess what? That's right. The Doo-dah returneth and this time she's bringing company! A DOG! A PUPPY! And she GOT A JOB! (Guess who's puppy-sitting all summer?)Sigh...

CONNIE HERE TO CONSOLE ALL YOU EMPTY NESTERS (originally published August 2005)

Last weekend, we dropped my daughter off to start her junior year in college. This coming weekend my friend is sending her kid off for his freshman year. How are we handling it? My friend hangs her head, sighs, and reverently whimpers her son’s name on an average of once every fifteen minutes. She has begun to tell anecdotal stories about a kid who is barely 18 and, even more weirdly, always in the past tense. Now, either my friend is planning to do her son in, or she is already experiencing Empty Nest Syndrome.

Me? Not so much. I am too busy rifling through the yellow pages looking for a mariachi band for a forthcoming fiesta. The festival I’m planning to hold? The Feast of the Clean Bathroom! Ole!

It’s not that I lack sympathy. I remember mourning little Doo-Da’s (my pet name for my daughter) initial leap from the nest. I remember looking over the edge of that nest and thinking how far the drop was. I also remember thinking that it might be entertaining watching Doo-da frantically flapping her wings on her way to wherever it is she’s going. Not because I’m a nasty mom—though certainly a case can be made there-- but because having done everything within my power to insure that this kid is not going to hit the ground with a splat, I am also relatively certain she will eventually land safely somewhere. Hopefully not back in my nest...

I tried to teach her life’s most important lessons, (never order meatloaf.) I held her tight when she needed comforting and stood aside the times she beat her little wings in a trial run at freedom only to hit the living room window and slide to the floor, a little bruised but wiser for the journey. It worked out, too.

Oh, that’s not to say that there haven’t been a few air pockets in Doo-da’s maiden flight. Apparently, I’d neglected to teach her the FINANCE chapter from the dog-eared manual I carry around solely in my head, Raising a Doo-Da. But, all in all, I’ve spent more time congratulating myself than castigating myself and for a Catholic mom to say that is doing pretty good.

The first year my daughter went to college I would wake in the morning and look around my pristine house (hey! hey! this is an opinion piece! and my opinion is that relatively speaking my house in damn pristine!) and smile and think, “She’s out there somewhere, independent, brave, learning, her little wings growing stronger as she flaps higher and higher! God love her!”You should do this to! It’s very empowering!

Then go turn her room into a study. That's even more empowering.

But be forewarned: Just when you have developed a civilized routine and have stopped looking under beds for the piles of clothing that used to appear daily in the laundry room—because how can one child produce that much dirty laundry? It’s gotta be there somewhere!-- and have reacquainted yourself with music you want to listen to and at a decibel that you are fairly certain is not damaging your few remaining audio nerves, you'll look around and there she'll be. Doo-da.

“What are you doing here?” you ask around a mouthful of moon pie, because no longer having to worry about representing the four food groups at every meal you are now representing one per day and today’s is “Sugar.”

“Geez. Nice greeting. Earth to mother, it’s Thanksgiving. And what you done to my room!”

Got that? You understand what I’m telling you? That’s right. THEY COME BACK. And your nest, the one that may have grown a little dusty over the last two months but remained miraculously uncluttered, the nest where for eight short weeks you could pretty much guarantee that when you opened the drawer where you stuffed your silk scarf it was still going to be there, that nest disappeared the second she walked in the door! Evaporated Poof! Leaving you with only a vague and melancholy yearning.

Doo-da is back and she’s brought five times the crap she left with. And to make things really bizarre, though she might have become an adult in the great forest of the real world, in your nest she is still 16 and still a slob and you still can’t stand it so you still are doing her clothes and shutting the door to the bathroom where amazing messes take place with ritualistic regularity!

So, newly christened empty nesters, dry them wrinkly little eyes and take from my words either joy or trepidation, depending on whether you are an empty nest neophyte or a jaded old hen. They come back. Sooner than you can imagine.

Enjoy your empty nest! Wash your hands in a sink that isn’t ringed with grime or make-up or both. Lie on your carpet and wiggle with pleasure when you don’t roll over any pretzels. Enjoy the blessedly empty places on your end tables where soda cans once dwelt 24/7. Listen to the awe-inspiring silence. Read a book right through the dinner hour. Go now, go ! Stare at your silent and empty washing machine! Do it. It won’t last.

Now excuse me, I got me a mariachi band to hire and the clock is ticking.
Connie Brockway, 3:52 PM