By Stephanie Spillmann 9/26/17
A Seriously Empty Nest
I just returned from Seattle a few days ago and my head’s still spinning. My soul truly hasn’t caught up with me yet. It was a whirlwind trip. We packed up everything my youngest daughter could fit into 3 huge suitcases and a box, and headed out on her journey into adulthood and beyond. She’s off to college.
We took a detour into Carlsbad (north of San Diego) so we could see my parents and her older sister for six days. It was wonderful, if not a little disorienting. Seems like you’re on vacation for a little while and then you’re thrust back into “leaving for college mode” — and all of the emotions that entails.
My daughter and I are extremely close (I’m close to all of my girls — the best gift anyone could have in this world is adult daughters who actually like you, miss you, and confide in you). We spent the past year watching every episode ever made of Gilmore Girls. In fact, we are our own version of Lorelai and Rory — and use those names often. I have a few notes from her signed, “Love Rory”.
Like any mom, who no longer has anyone to yell down the stairs that dinner’s ready, I’m reeling from the pain of emptiness in my house. It’s the first time in 26 years that I haven’t had a young person physically in my home. I taught them all to read (there are four girls in our family), and we studied the weather. We studied about Egypt and made plaster of Paris pyramids until my grandmother got concerned that we’d never leave Egypt that year.
I homeschooled my girls. It was the best decision of my life, and I never once regretted it. I’ll tell you why. I got precious time that most don’t get. Weeks, months, and years of watching them bloom and learn and grow. They each developed amazing gifts and talents and had time to nurture those into incredible and breathtaking artforms. They are authors, musicians, dancers, artists, and so much more.
My nest is not just empty. It was emptied in ways that no mom could ever prepare for. It didn’t follow the normal course of things where you know you’re raising them to leave and lead happy, productive lives. I get that, and was thrilled at the thought of one day releasing, one by one, happy and well-adjusted citizens into the world.
I’m not a stereotypical homeschool mom — I don’t do the helicopter thing. My youngest went to high school for two years and then finished up at the local junior college. My oldest three all went to junior college during their high school years as well. It was always in the plan to joyfully set them out on their own when they were prepared financially and educationally.
Two years ago, my 21-year-old died. And 9 months after that, my 19-year-old fled to Oregon…with no real plan, and I got three days’ notice. She was in so much pain that getting away from this place where she lost her sister seemed the only option for her survival. Believe me — I understood. It just hurt like hell. The worst kind of hell.
In 9 short months, I lost two girls and had no idea what happened to my life. It felt like two deaths. My life changed to never seeing one of my girls again on this earth and only seeing my middle child a couple times a year. I’m not over either of these losses by a longshot. But life moves forward, and so must I.
This past summer, my oldest moved out to San Diego where she’d been planning to relocate for a few years. I could handle that just fine since it had been in the works for quite some time. You can prepare for things you expect to happen. And this past week, I flew home, over the beautiful city of Seattle. My youngest was not in the seat next to me. It was dreadful and gut-wrenching.
This too was a planned exit. I knew it was coming, and I’m ever so proud of her and her accomplishments. I’m so excited about this new journey she’s on. The college life on campus was never something that I experienced, and I know she’s going to love it. She already does. I’ve heard from her every day. We both have quite a bit of separation anxiety, but it’s starting to quiet just a little.
As I hear about her day and her first class and her new friends, my heart settles some. The loneliness for kids in my vicinity and the ache deep down will take time. But I’ve got a plan — several of them. They’re really ongoing projects, and I’m glad for the distraction. Writing and running this blog is a balm for the soul for sure.
I’ve also got an exciting business trip to Dallas for the 2017 FinCon meeting that’s just a month away. I’m giddy with excitement to be in rooms full of financially savvy folks who are experts in their fields. I live for this kind of stuff. My notebook and computer will be full of notes and wisdom when the last workshop is complete.
My life is pretty full with writing, various courses, and starting a new website in the near future. I think it will all be okay. In fact, I know it will. My husband and I are still newlyweds, technically (just over 2 years), and we have many things planned for the two of us already.
In two weeks, we’ll drive to Durango and take a 6 hour train ride up to Silverton. The meandering steam engine will gently wind through the mountains, ripe with fall colors. I’ll sip on a hot coffee with Baileys Irish Cream and breathe deep the wonders of this new chapter in life.
I’ll ponder what my middle daughter recently told me. You need to come join the party over on the West Coast. Oh, I’m planning on it! That’s our not-too-distant future goal. The possibilities are quite tempting.
There’s Oregon…with its forests and breathtaking coastline.
Seattle…with its great food, funky crowd, and beautiful scenery.
And there’s Carlsbad and north county San Diego…my own personal Paradise.
I guess you can tell where we’ll probably end up. As long as we’re all on the same coast, I’m good.
To all you parents who have emptied their nests before me, I admire you and love you for your strength. It takes grace and courage to let them go and love them from afar.