Quiet and peaceful defines the empty nest

Although my daughter went “home” to New Jersey for the better part of the Thanksgiving break, we did get to spend some time together before and after her trip. And you know what? I’m starting to understand why empty-nesting parents miss their kids. Or rather “young adults” and that’s the difference.

My mother and I grew closer after I started college which I always attributed to her missing me and learning to appreciate me more when I wasn’t home. Sure. How things change when we can finally see them from the perspective of another. I only wish now that my mom was around, so I can share my revelation.

I picked her up on Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving. We went to the movies (only $5 for AMC Stubs members on Tuesdays!), something we’ve started doing fairly regularly in the past month or so because she doesn’t have classes on Wednesdays. We just relaxed around the apartment on Wednesday. Thursday, she slept in while I ran my early morning Turkey Trot and then we had a nice lunch just the two of us before she began her journey back east.

Nothing really exciting. No monumental story to be shared with her children someday down the road. Just a very quiet and peaceful time together. The “difficult teenage years” (as my own mother referred to that time in my life) were behind us. I recall mothers of older children telling me that it would get better, that they grow out of it; hard to believe when you’re in the thick of it.  I found myself having that conversation with the mother of young teens this week. It’s nice to finally be on the other side.

I still believe that my own mother would say the turning point in our relationship came as I matured, and from my new perspective as the mom, I wouldn’t argue with her. Although I think the responsibility for the transformation in the mother-child relationship is everyone’s. Yes, I will admit as the mom, that my daughter is not the difficult teen she once was. It would appear that in living with three other girls she has finally learned to clean up after herself and put things back where she found them. She also confesses to actually “liking” laundry day (“it’s meditative”)!

While my daughter has matured, I also miss her. And now that I don’t have to clean up after her when she is at home, I miss her even more. She’s also less argumentative. Maybe has come to appreciate me? Perhaps. Regardless of what’s changed, I enjoy her company. I enjoy her stories about her new experiences and her excitement about what’s she learning. She’s funny and cleaver. We have similar interests. She teaches me new things and she is my go-to person for help with social media.

Someone told me a long time ago when I was a new parent, that you have 18 years to impart as much wisdom on your kids as you can so that you can let go and trust them to make their own smart decisions. I know I’ve made mistakes (what parent hasn’t, right?). I feel now though that I’ve done a pretty good job navigating some difficult terrain over the last five years.

There’s no finish line in parenting. I will of course continue to be there to support her (and pay the college tuition bills) and make sure her basic needs are met for a few more years. Beyond that though, there’s a lot less “parenting” to be done. And I can now say that my daughter is one of my best friends. I am very grateful for that.

Alone time with another close friend. Diversey Harbor. Chicago, Illinois. November 2018.

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