An Emptier Nest

El Noblé has left home. It’s the second time in six years that he has flown the coop but this time I think he means it.

He didn’t take off in a huff, it must be said. Although I’m sure he’s relieved to be on his own again, it wasn’t an unfriendly or unexpected parting.  His work keeps him in another town about 30 minutes away most days, so it made more sense for him to live there than with us, and his new place is only minutes from his office which will allow him to both get a lot more done AND get a lot more sleep. Because he lives and works so close, we still have dinner together about once a week, which is about how often we saw him when he was racing back and forth from our place to his office anyway, so it’s not as if he’s out of our lives completely.

Still, it smarts a little to see him go. I was so happy to have him with us again when he pulled up his stakes on the East coast and moved in 20 months ago, it’s almost harder to say goodbye this time around. Maybe that’s because this time it happened just before the holidays. The last time he moved out was in the spring, and he needed his own place because the Jarhead and I were leaving Pennsylvania to live in Minnesota. At the time he was nineteen and had ties to the Keystone State that left him totally disinterested in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. So essentially we left him behind.

Or maybe it’s harder this time around precisely because he’s the one who’s leaving. Sure, technically he left our house last time, but that was only because we were selling our home and thought it would be better if his stuff was out of the house while it was on the market and/or when the movers came to pack up our things. At that time, I didn’t think I could feel any worse than I did knowing I was leaving my baby boy behind to fend for himself in the big city, but to my surprise, I do.

Or maybe I don’t feel worse than I did then. Maybe it just feels that way because six years have passed since the last time he left. Maybe, like the pain of childbirth, the agony I’m feeling now will go away with time and be replaced with the joy and pride I’m trying to feel knowing he’s ready and able to be on his own again. Maybe in six more years I’ll have helped him to celebrate so many successes that I’ll have forgotten my sadness.

People more experienced than I tell me it will be even harder when the Princess leaves home. They say that, although it’s rough when the oldest leaves, it feels much worse when the youngest one goes; that you feel it acutely when the last one moves on and that nest is truly empty.

I suspect they’re right about all that. I tend to believe them because, although I cried like a baby the morning I walked the eldest to the school bus for his first day of kindergarten, I cried like a baby every morning the week my youngest started school. And while I sobbed when El Noblé learned to ride a bike, got his driver’s license, got his first job, and graduated high school, I was a total basket case as Princess Primrose reached each of these same milestones a few years later.

Now again, there may be reasons for this other than the fact that she is the youngest. Part of it may be that I was so exhausted by her hair raising temper tantrums by the time kindergarten came around, I cried out of a sense of relief that, even if her terrible twos had lasted longer than those of most children, they were now—if for only five or so hours a day—someone else’s problem. And as for the driver’s license, job, and graduation, I know that at least some of my tears can be attributed to the pride and joy I felt over having seen her through to adulthood without having killed her or myself.

Although I may be sad when the time comes, I don’t plan to spend a lot of time worrying about how I’ll react when my youngest child leaves the nest. I say this not because it won’t bring me to tears, or cause me to lose sleep. Rather, I say it because, as it was with going to school, riding a biking, and driving a car, if she has her way, it’s never going to happen.