My empty nest has been full for the holidays. As I sit down to write this, my daughter will soon be returning to university to do her honours in Psychology. She completed her degree at the end of last year, moved out of her flat and came home for a while. My empty nest was transformed overnight from a silent, orderly space into a noisy, messy space full of laughter. She will soon be packing her bags again and I will have to get used to her not being around all over again. At this stage her whole life still stretches out ahead of her, full of promise and possibilities. However, for this temporary period, she is happy to be at home and to settle in to some of her old routines.
She has made herself quite comfortable – rather too comfortable as a matter of fact. As I look up from my desk I can see a sleeping bag laid out on my living floor. She went on a hike with friends and slept in a cave for the night. She says she lay awake for hours with bats flying overhead and water dripping down on her face. She is still trying to clean dirty sand off the borrowed sleeping bag. On my diningroom table I can see her jogging pants, a bottle of deodorant, and a pair of socks.
As is always the case when she comes home, her friends come too. The house is full of chattering, laughing and eating. All this is a far cry from my normal routine but I revel in it, enjoying their energy and the easy rapport between them. I remember when this used to happen almost every weekend and I feel a pang of regret. Life has moved on, however, and there is little time for regret. New memories are being formed and, although they never replace the old ones, they are just as valuable.
I try hard not to nag because the minor inconveniences of dirty cups and towels on the floor do not compare with the joy I feel that she is home. I can lie beside her on the couch watching a movie and have long intense discussions about feminism, politics and just about anything else. I know she is used to having her own space now because she has been living away from home for the past three years. I just have to forget for a while about keeping my space tidy, and enjoy the time we have together.
I am glad that she still feels that my home is her home – a place where she feels safe and relaxed. Eventually, not too long from now, she will have her own home and her own family. I think growing up is still scary to her at times, even though she seems so mature and well adjusted. My son is already aboard the treadmill of the daily grind and I am glad she has another year before she has to start working. My university days were some of the best days of my life and she has the opportunity to study in a wonderful, little town where students walk about under long lines of oak trees and sit drinking coffee at sidewalk cafes.
I feel really privileged that I have a daughter who has grown up to be a true friend. She encourages me when I am down, tells me the truth when I need to hear it and sometimes even mothers me a little. How did she ever become so wise? Yet, despite her wisdom, she is still my baby too. I think there will always be those times when she needs a comforting word from me.
I am wondering how others deal with the emotions of having their children home for a time. Is it hard for you when the time comes for them to leave or are you only too glad to see them go. I would love to hear your comments.