I've never really liked the term "empty nest." Ever since Bethany graduated from high school in May, lots of people have asked me if I'm feeling sad about having an empty nest. And there have been a few folks who've given me an elbow nudge accompanied by a conspiratorial wink, telling me how much I'm going to enjoy my empty nest.
Well, since my nest has been half empty since February of 2009, I'm not really sure how to respond to these folks. Maybe that's because I'm not really sure how I feel about it. It's one thing for your nest to be emptied by a child's death, and an entirely different thing when a child leaves the nest to head to college.
So ... since we'll be moving Bethany into her dorm at the University of Arkansas one week from today, here are just a few (well, ten) of my thoughts ...
1. I'm so excited for her. Even though it's been almost thirty years ago, I clearly remember how excited I was to be leaving home and heading off to college. I couldn't wait, and she can't either.
2. We've had fun doing some pre-college shopping together. Since she'll be getting married after just one year in the dorm, we've tried to stick to buying things she'll be able to use in her home next year ... and that's pretty fun to think about, too.
3. I'm praying that she'll have a good roommate and suitemates. She has never met these girls in person, but they've "met" on Facebook, and they text each other a lot. They seem to be compatible, but you never know until you live in a tiny little dorm room with someone!
4. I'm so glad that her fiance' (aka "Other Brad") will be there with her. He will be starting his senior year there, so he knows the ropes at the U of A. He can help her find her way around that enormous campus, make sure she gets to where she's going safely, and help her get plugged in to some good Christian ministries there. I'm so thankful for that ... it makes this Mama feel much better!
5. She has spent her summer working as a counselor at Family Farm Christian Day Camp ... the same place where we hold our While We're Waiting Parents' Weekends. She had such a great experience there, and really grew in her walk with the Lord. I'm so glad she had that opportunity before heading off to a secular university.
6. Her career goal is to be a dental hygienist, and she's going to spend the first three days of next week "shadowing" at our dentist's office. And guess who just happens to have an appointment on Monday afternoon? Me! I wonder if they'll let her practice on me ... It's actually kind of a scary thought! ;-)
7. She is so ready to get out on her own. From seventh grade on, her dad has been her principal, and I've also worked in her school. She's never really been away from us ... at least when it comes to school. She's looking forward to the independence that college will provide. We keep teasing her that we're going to get an apartment in Fayetteville and come up every weekend ... I think she's half afraid that we're serious!
8. I'm beginning to think about how our lives will change when she's not home all the time. No more ball games, for one thing. The ability to focus on each other as a couple for a change. The opportunity to take up a new hobby. Learning how to cook for two ... or maybe going out to eat more often! There will definitely be some good things about it!
9. She doesn't think she's going to miss us. I remember feeling that way about my parents when I went to college, too. It didn't take long for me to gain a whole new appreciation of my folks!
10. I'm going to miss her terribly. She's been away from us for a week at a time, but never longer than that. She's such a bright spot in our lives ... always smiling, laughing, and being silly. It will be very different around here without her, and I'm really not sure how I'm going to like it.
So how do I feel about my "empty nest"? I'm really okay with it. Yes, I'll miss my girl, but she's only going to Fayetteville! If I want to, I can call her five times a day ... Because she'd love that! ;-)
But I can text her, message her on Facebook, even Skype with her if I want to see her face. Of course we won't really get an apartment up there, but we can go up from time to time and visit her. She can come home for a weekend occasionally, and we'll see her at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And next May, she'll be home in time to get ready for her wedding at the end of the month.
And I can rejoice in the fact that she's growing up, the way kids are supposed to. She has so much to look forward to ... and so do I. You know, when I think about it, my "nest" may be empty, but my heart is full. Bethany is growing into a lovely young woman and Hannah is in good hands with her Heavenly Father. I am a blessed Mom.