Fleeting moments surround the empty nest

This past weekend was Lollapalooza, which has become a tradition. Two years ago, my daughter and I, along with her friend, made our first trip together to Chicago for the acclaimed music festival. My daughter’s sweet sixteen present was four-day passes, round-trip airfare, and hotel accommodations (and a chaperone) for her and her friend.  Last summer they had jobs to pay (most) of their own way and talked me into getting the hotel again (thankfully, I had points to use).

This year, they had a free Airbnb, 30 minutes from downtown – our new apartment! They added two more friends to the mix and drove from New Jersey. Just as I was about all unpacked and starting to feel somewhat settled here, four teenagers descended onto my new home – while I was on a short business trip for my new job (part-time as Chicago Metro Regional Director with Let Me Run). I came home to chaos and I was so happy to see them.

One of the things I didn’t realize I’d miss so much when I wrote my list of things I would miss about New Jersey, was these kids. Our house felt, at times, like “headquarters” – the meeting place before going on to some bigger plans. I embraced the role of chauffeur. I was always willing to drive the kids anywhere at any time. And even when they started driving themselves, they still often met up at our house.  Sometimes our house was just the cozy living room in which to watch a movie.

I knew moving would change a lot of things, but we were surrounded by change that was going to happen no matter where we lived. I welcomed them with open arms last week and put up with their mess knowing that when the weekend was over, they’d be off and at college in four different states in a few short weeks. The days of kids popping in and hanging out, making s’mores by the firepit, and waking to wonder who slept on the couch last night, were gone.

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Even the dog will miss having these kids around.

I felt such a wave of sadness when I walked back into my empty, quiet, messy apartment yesterday morning after seeing them drive away. Empty-nesting, I realize is about mourning the passage of time as much as it’s about missing the kids. As teens and young adults, we are on the fast track, constantly looking forward to what lies ahead, and probably taking for granted the fleeting moments we will come back to in our minds, over and over again longingly, decades later.

As older adults we are all too aware of time slipping away and the milestones that mark a life now forever changed – even as we embrace opportunities and new adventures, and the revised roles we get to play. I had a conversation with my brother while I was in Ireland about this. We agreed we missed our children as they were when they were small. We talked about times when we felt too tired to give them the attention they wanted and how we were glad we did it anyway; that we would give anything to be asked to give that time now.

I got tickets to the White Sox-Yankees game on Monday night to just hold onto the kids for a little while longer. I have no doubt that they are already planning Lollapalooza Weekend 2019. And until then, I will miss them…I will always miss the children they used to be.

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The last night in Chicago for these kids…this trip.

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