Yes, folks, it's true! Three kids, three mostly peaceful and happy childhoods, three young people taking their places at the grownup table, the grownup conversations, and the grownup movies, books, and music ... and now three kids moved out, and in school. That last bearded young giant got his acceptance letter yesterday! Very, very soon ... after this summer ... all those Braxton-Hicks Evenings will be complete in the reality of our empty nest. For the record, our particular cuckoo's nest seems anything but empty.
I think we need a new term. Empty Nest is bleak and used up and no longer serving any purpose. Dead sticks. Bits and pieces of old cloth or a fuzz from a blankie. A shoelace or a feather waving all alone at the edge of the round world bordered by what was once a nest full of eggs. It's a sad picture, that one is. Empty Nest. Ugh. Barren wasteland.
But that's not what I have! It's not my house. We loved having a full nest. We did. The experience of birthing, breastfeeding, diaper changing, reading, teaching to read, teaching to clean or cook or mow or sew or listen or sing or play an instrument ... it's all good. Conversations are good. A child's perspective glitters and glistens and sparkles like a newly minted coin, and reflects the world in such incredible clarity. We loved having those exhausting, exhilarating kids. But we loved them into their own lives. And off they go! The last one over the cuckoo's nest is flying this fall.
So we look around.
What do we see now?
Who are we?
We were their parents.
Who are we now?
First, we are still their parents. But instead of showing them how to dedicate themselves with all of their powers to the well-being of their own families, we show them now that the fruitful years of growing a family lead to the fruitful years of a different kind of life. We let them know - without saying a word - that people who have been married for 25 years are still quite impossibly mad for each other. We show them that raising kids is good for the brain, and prepares a body to take on new projects. We turn our attention to a closer dance with each other, but now we cover more of the dance floor. I think that's it, really. When your kids are little, you keep a long tether between the two grownups in the couple, and you maintain it and watch over it and you make sure it does not break. You need it. Each parent needs the other, and the children need the parents to be at each end of that connection.
But when your children have flown your nest, you don't need the tether any more. The need for boundaries and bindings has gone. And what it seems we have instead is the freedom to dance - and we learned a lot of the steps by way of the raising of our kids. Odd. I didn't expect this. But that's what it feels like to me. Dancing in concert, tethered together for the sake of those small people who were necessarily underfoot has taught the two of us a very beautiful dance.