June 11, 2024   8:50am

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Our “What’s Next” advisor Cindy finds her youngest on his way out the door. As college beckons, she’s navigating the love, pride and sadness that accompany that event …

It’s official. I will be an empty nester this fall.

The college letters have dribbled in. In a few instances, there were hoots of joy, big smiles, bear hugs. One time there was a closed bedroom door….the air heavy with disappointment. A few colleges have been revisited, and a final decision will be made by May 1st. In the end, my delightful younger son will go to a college of his choice. He is prepared and hankering to take on the world.

I, on the other hand, am a blubbering mix of emotions. I feel tremendous joy and pride for the person he has become. I feel profound sadness at the prospect of losing his presence in my every day life. I feel relief that I have worked through enough of my own issues that I bring a sense of autonomy and a long list of my own projects with which to fill the void. I am anxious but hopeful that my relationship with my husband will adapt to this changing set of circumstance, as it has to many before. I am tentative about how to be a good mother to adult children but will trust my instincts as I have for the last 21 years of parenting.

The departure of my older son to college four years ago was also accompanied by this suite of feelings. Then, however, I could fall back on still having a child at home to give purpose to my parenting routine. I grew to treasure the precious alone time that I had never had before with my youngest. Now, there is no avoiding the note of finality to this phase of motherhood; when your last child, your baby, leaves home.

To paraphrase Anna Quindlen,* I have two almost-adults, both taller than I am, who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid to disagree with me in their opinion of them. Who, miraculously, go the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth. The babies I held are buried deep inside of them. I alone in the world can discern and respond to certain of their small gestures and shifts in tone of voice. They have done more than anyone to excavate my basic humanity. I am so, so sad that this phase of my relationship with them must end.

One of my motivations for becoming a snoety contributor was my belief (shared with Harriett) that women have unrealized potential in the “be a better community” department and that snoety could facilitate us supporting, sharing, enriching each other. So this post will test the hypothesis. It is my first “What’s Next?” post where I am not sure that I have a helpful perspective to share – I’m too much in the midst of this particular change to trust my perspective.What I can to do is give my voice to the raw feelings of intense love and pride and sadness that accompany letting go of my son and hope it resonates with some of you.

What you might do is share your perspectives with me. Whether you have children or not; whatever side of empty nesting you are on; we all experience separation intensely.

I would love to hear from you, our emerging snoety community….


* When she talks about raising her own children in her many books and articles

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