Vail Daily column: The bittersweet moment of becoming an empty-nester
Some of you reading this column will relate as a parent who has gone through the bittersweet event of having your children move out, especially if it is your last child or they were an only child. And every one of us reading these words today has been that child or young adult who has moved away from home, at some point, eventually.
Many went to college, others joined the military, and there were some that just felt like it was time to go and find a job or employment and another place to live. Some chose to move fairly close to home, but just far enough to keep the parents from “popping by” and yet close enough to raid the pantry and do some laundry if necessary. And if we can look at our own departures from home we would probably remember the bittersweet moment, our nervousness, the anxious anticipation that accompanies any new adventure, and we probably also remember the melancholy look upon our parents faces, possibly even a tear or two on their cheeks as well as maybe even a little drop from our own eyes.
There are obviously mixed emotions and in many cases when extreme happiness and excitement enter the arena, they can serve as blockers to the deeper emotions that we attempt to hide. And I can tell you that as the last of my children moved into a dorm last weekend, it was definitely bittersweet.
Although she was my most rebellious child, she has also been blessed with boundless energy. She has also been blessed with boundless emotions. So combining rebellion with emotionally charged energy sometimes could create a little bit of friction in the house — OK, maybe a lot of friction and tension.
Will I miss her? Absolutely. Will I miss her sense of humor? Yes. Will I miss her hugs? No question. Will I miss just seeing her wandering around the house, waking up, or more accurately waking her up? Yes I will. Will I miss grounding her? No way. Will I miss the emotionally driven arguments? Nope. Will I miss waiting up to hear her come in at night? No chance as I have been looking forward to a solid night’s sleep for so long.
When change happens in our life, just we have to remember the importance of staying connected through memories, text messages, calls, emails and visits. Change is not a “four-letter word,” it is just something that happens. And as with all change, even though we may not like it or agree with it, we know and accept that change happens, and it will always happen. It’s all about how we prepare our hearts and minds to deal with the change when it does occur.
Mixed emotions and bittersweet moments are natural and awesome all at the same time. It’s when they occur that they tap into our senses and tug hard on our own hearts, letting us know that we are indeed alive. They say gratitude is one of the healthiest of all human emotions. So instead of focusing on the things I will not miss about my daughter’s departure, I will focus on appreciating all of the funny, exciting and challenging times she brought into my life.
How about you? Does the bittersweet moment of loved ones moving out or moving out yourself lead you more toward gratitude and appreciation for all of the times and memories you had together, or are you wrestling with the melancholy feelings and separation anxiety? Either way, I would love to hear all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org and when we can enjoy the memories, stay in contact, and just let those bittersweet moments happen, it really will be a better than good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker.