Monday, November 11, 2013

Ten on the Tenth -- Observations from the Empty Nest

Whoops!  It's the 11th, isn't it?  Oh well, yesterday I was too busy with my little "chick" who was home for the weekend to post anyway.

I can't seem to go anywhere these days without someone asking me how we are doing with our empty nest.  So, here are a few observations I've made in the first three months of having an empty nest ...

1.  I only do laundry once, maybe twice, a week.  When Bethany was home, our washing machine was running pretty much every day because of all of her sweaty, smelly practice clothes and uniforms.

2.  Two people make a lot less trash than three people.  How can one person make such a difference?

3.  I do a lot less cooking when it's just the two of us at home.  In fact, I rarely turn on the oven.  Sandwiches, cereal, soup, carry-out pizza, and meals out meet our needs for sustenance.

4.  I do far less grocery shopping (see #3).

5.  I rarely run the dishwasher (see #3).

6.  I clean the house ... and it stays clean!  Especially Bethany's bathroom.  And her bedroom.  I kind of like that.

7.  I'm no longer running from sporting event to sporting event.  Most nights, I come home from work and I shut the garage door behind my car.  I can put on my pajama pants and relax at home for the evening.  Ahhhhh, bliss!

8.  Maybe because I'm no longer attending sporting events in person, I find myself much more interested in watching sports on TV.  And maybe because that's something Brad and I can enjoy doing together.  Speaking of which, we actually have time to enjoy doing things together again, just the two of us.  I like that, too.

9.  It is so much fun to sit back and watch Bethany grow into a responsible, mature young woman.  She's working hard and it's paying off in the form of excellent grades.  She is learning how to manage her time and how to discipline herself to study even when she'd rather do something else.  It's also wonderful to see her begin to appreciate her mom and dad a little more.  When I get texts from her thanking us for raising her the way we did and talking about how much she loves and misses us ... Well, it doesn't get much better than that!

10.  I'm beginning to see Bethany as an individual, someone separate and distinct from me, with her own unique gifts and talents and her own life to live.  Of course, intellectually, I've always known that, but my heart is starting to accept that as well.  And I can only rejoice in that!  I'm also beginning to see Brad and I as a couple again ... no longer as "just" our children's parents.  And that can only be a good thing.

Do I miss Bethany?  Of course I do.  Our house is so quiet without her here.  This past Halloweeen was the first time in 22 years that we haven't had a child at home for that occasion.  And this upcoming Christmas will be the last time we'll have a child at home on Christmas morning ... by next Christmas Bethany will be married.  Life is changing for the Sullivan family.

One thing, though, that makes it kind of fun to miss Bethany is the joyful anticipation of seeing her again.  She does not come home very often ... about once a month up to this point.  So it's a real treat when she does.  I get all excited and run to the grocery store to get the ingredients for her favorite foods and come home and cook them up.  She brings home a pile of dirty laundry and messes up that clean bedroom and bathroom.  We stay up late watching wedding shows on TV and talking about college life.  And before I know it, it's Sunday afternoon and she's hitting the road for "home", and our home is quiet and still once again.  And there's no sadness, because she's doing what she's supposed to be doing ... growing up and becoming the woman God wants her to be.

But the "missing" we have for Bethany is altogether different from the "missing" in our hearts for Hannah.  When Hannah left for Heaven, we experienced many of the things I listed above.  We had less laundry.  Her bed stayed made and her room stayed clean.  I no longer bought as many groceries as I used to.  But there was no joy to be found in these things, only emptiness and heartbreak.

There is one similarity, though, and that is the joyful anticipation of seeing her again.  Granted, it will probably be longer than a month before I see her again (although, if God wills, it could be much sooner).  Four and a half years ago, she hit the road for "home", and our nest became partially empty way before I ever thought it would.  But, just like Bethany, she is doing what she's supposed to be doing ... sitting around the throne, worshipping her Lord and Savior.

And though my nest may be empty, my heart is full ... because both of my girls are happy, and I will see them both again ... sooner or later.


Joni said...

Beautifully written Jill! Loved it!

Jill Sullivan said...

Thank you, Joni! :)

Kelle said...

Kimberly Hughes said...

We have two boys away at college, 20 and 21. Our empty nest, though, occurred when our youngest left us for Heaven this past June. We are experiencing many of the same things. Plus we both work in elementary schools. I am an Assistant Principal in a public elementary school in NC. Looking forward to keeping in touch.

Jill Sullivan said...

I look forward to keeping in touch with you, too, Kimberly ... In fact, I hope to meet you one day!