“In order to help loved ones, you may need to let go of trying to rescue them. It may twist your heart up and frustrate you to no end to stand by while they fumble the ball, to contend with the awful truth that love cannon conquer all, that you can’t do it for them, and sometimes the best you can do is hold their hand while they suffer. Love isn’t like pulling someone from a burning car or saving him or her from drowning. The drama of a loved one’s need is much more complex than that and demands that you weigh right action from wrong action, support from sabotage. There is love that enables and love that disables, and only a tortuous judgement call determines which is which.
(Gregg Levoy, Callings)
My oldest son turns 18 today so this becomes my first post in a brand new chapter of posts on the Empty(ing) Nest Diary.
Only I don’t know what to call this chapter…
That seems misdirected.
It’s odd to think that the seed for this Empty(ing) Nest blog was planted in the hours after my son was born when I reached down in the shower to wrap my arms around a hollow belly.
But those moments of prescience were obscured by years, and months, and days, and hours–of devotion and attention and connection–and BIG LOVE.
This morning, the birthday boy and his girlfriend read through the tiny hand-bound book of quotes that I recorded from the mouth of that preschooler who heads to college next week.
“Wow, parenting a teenager must be awful!” my son said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, feigning confusion.
“It sounds like I really liked you when I was little.”
“Yep,” I said.
He took his girlfriend’s hand and headed up the stairs, and I put on some blues…
The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away for good…
Free, free, free now baby…
I’m free for good.
Now that’s it all over,
All I can do is wish you well.
Who knew that the blues could speak to mothers, but they do…
I tried to get a head start on this empty nest thing years ago when my son first entered adolescence. I thought if I wrote about it, ahead of it all, it would be easier, like having an epidural. But 47 posts on Teens later, I still feel the pain of this impending separation.
I feel it when I shop for his toiletries. I feel it when I kiss him goodnight. I feel it when I look at his younger brother, who has just turned 13 himself.
It’s too early to pour a glass of chardonnay so I turn toward the issue of laundry. My 18 year old’s laundry. At college.
For days now, I’ve been plagued with worry…
What kind of laundry basket should he have at school?
What would serve as an inviting receptacle, and also a means of transport to the laundry room, and then back again, folded, to be placed in drawers?
This preoccupation of mine is odd for so many reasons, but mainly because:
I stopped doing my son’s laundry when he was 5,
and because my son currently leaves his clothes strewn across the floor,
washes them only when he needs underwear,
(or when he can’t afford to buy any more shirts,)
and then leaves his clean laundry in the washer–for hours,
followed by the dryer–for days,
Until it is coaxed along by strident parental pleas,
after which he leaves it in the laundry basket,
Until someone else needs the basket,
and grumbling, dumps the laundry on his bed,
Where it Remains…
Until it slides back onto the floor
Whence it came.
“Why don’t we wait until I get there and see what I works?” my son says.
He was always practical like this, even as a toddler. (It’s annoying.)
I’ll never forget the first time he called me on my parental misguided-ness:
I hear the keys jingle by the door, so I stop him to ask:
“Where are you off to?”
“To get a lottery ticket,” he says.
I join in on brainstorming a list of all the other things he can in town now that he’s 18:
Shop at Life’s Little Luxuries
Enter the adult section of the video store
Be charged as adult for a crime
“I should have done something bad yesterday when I was still 17,” he said.
“Don’t forget to vote,” I add, as he heads out the door.
As much as I’ve loved this kid, I don’t want to Parent an Adult or know an Adult Child; so I think I’ll stay open to what this new chapter brings.
Kelly Salasin, August 15, 2013
Note: This is the first post in the “What’s Next?” Category.