Lebanon Reporter

Columns

March 20, 2013

Mixed feeling about a rapidly emptying nest

When I was a kid, I had a mood ring that was perpetually blue, signifying contentment and peace. That is, unless my younger sister was getting into my stuff; then it would turn as black as the midnight sky.

It’s a good thing I haven’t been wearing a mood ring the past few weeks because the color would be amber, and that simply does not match anything in my wardrobe.  

Amber signifies nervous, mixed emotions, and an unsettled feeling. It started last month when my 16-year-old daughter was accepted into a foreign exchange program. I was secretly hoping for Canada or Arkansas, but in August, she will be leaving for an 11-month stay in Australia. In case your geography is a little rusty, that is clear on the opposite side of the world.

On the heels of this, my 20-year-old daughter announced that she is applying for a study abroad program in Morocco.  Morocco has been deemed the safest of the North African countries, so she is not the least bit worried. She’s thinking Casablanca, and I’m thinking guerrilla warfare.

Also, in August, our 18-year-old son will be leaving the nest. Thankfully, Purdue University is right here in good old Indiana, but his bedroom will be empty for months. In order to keep a semblance of normalcy about my mornings, I will probably wake up every night and litter the family room with empty ice cream bowls, dirty socks and crushed Coke cans.

I still have two little ones, so technically I’m not dealing with empty-nest syndrome. I try to remind myself that with texting and Facebook, it’s almost like my daughters won’t even be out of the country. Half of our communication is through text anyway. I’m guilty of texting instead of hollering up the stairs to let them know dinner is ready.   

But there are many changes on the horizon, and it leaves me nervous and unsettled — amber.

I knew the kids had to grow up, I just didn’t realize it would happen so soon. Back in the late 90s, somebody tried to warn me. Who was it?  Oh yeah. It was the old ladies at church.

Keeping my little ones quiet and still during the sermon was an exercise in frustration. Each week, as I dejectedly herded my bedraggled little crew of misfits to the van, a wrinkled hand would rest upon my arm and an earnest voice would encourage, “These are the best days of your life. It goes by so quickly.”    

Sometimes, I wanted to punch them, but I didn’t because they were elderly. And we were in church. But I was exhausted, and most of the time I felt as though I was failing as a parent. It was not encouraging to hear that was as good as life would get.  

But eventually, I realized that the first times were fading, and the last times were going unnoticed.

When was the last time I read a storybook to my now 16-year-old daughter?  

When was the last time my 18-year-old son reached up to hug me instead of bending down?  

When did my 20-year-old daughter stop making us check her bed for spiders?

Oh wait. She still does that whenever she’s home.  

The old ladies were right. The time went by so quickly. Soon, those three babies will be leaving for Australia, Morocco and West Lafayette. For the most part, I will trust the Lord to guide and care for them. But since I’m human, I know there are times when I will forget to trust and my mood will become amber. In the meantime, I intend to relish every moment with the two little ones. And next year, when my entire brood is home again, I might buy a mood ring because blue goes with just about everything in my closet.

Ginger is an author, speaker and mother of five. Contact her at ginger@gingertruitt.com.

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