Her crumpled wet towel doesn’t litter the room; her unwashed dishes don’t sit in the sink waiting to be taken care of; the pair of bejeweled flip-flops don’t stand lazily by the front door; for several years, these were some chronic complaints I had, about my teenager.
I whined about, why she just doesn’t like to eat breakfast at home (egg sandwiches at the diner) and rarely adventures outside of her food domain of pizza rolls, hamburgers, sushi, Thai and maybe a bit of pasta without the marinara sauce. Salads, not really!
About two weeks ago my eighteen-year old first-born, moved out to her new condo, about 25 minutes away in Boca Raton, in anticipation of starting the next step of her life: College/University.
She moved into a spacious unit overlooking a small canal and has her private room with a hallway and bath/shower and a large walk-in closet. She shares a large kitchen, dinette and living space with her new roomie Sarah, already a sophomore in college.
She is learning to spread her wings; learning to live independently – do her own laundry, and change her own sheets. While, in our little home, with the three of us, may have been cramped with her, now feels empty, as if, someone has sucked the wind out.
Some 28 years ago, I left my family home, and migrated a few thousand miles, where I didn’t get to see my family for more than 30 months! I was also spreading my own wings and building my own universe. I missed my family, but rarely looked back. I was conquering a new world altogether.
Today, as my nest empties out, I feel sad, nostalgic, remorseful and yet happy and anxious – all at the same time. I never knew that these feelings could be so contradictory at the same moment.
My morning starts with a text, “Good Morning Daddy, Whatya doing?” and the series continues throughout the day. I learn about the new job she has secured for herself, or what classes she has signed up for, or how sad she is that her BFF friend Markie is moving away to college.
I try to call and listen to her voice at least once a day; once a week, we have dinner or breakfast together and see each other face-to-face. Sometimes, if she is in the area, she will stop by and spend the night in her old room.
When I go into the room at night to kiss the girls good night, and hear two sets of deep breathing, it gives me a certain comfort, and false sense of security – that is hard to explain. I sit on the floor and just listen to that deep breathing for a few minutes.
Tomorrow morning, she will get into her grey Honda Civic and drive off on her own, to her doctor’s appointment or some other errand. All she will leave behind is that short few hours of memory that she was here, and I held her, for as long as I could, until she was truly ready to fly.
Someone once told me, once you leave home, you can never go back – because you are not the same, and the home is not the same either.
For those of my friends, who have young children, all I say, let those dirty dishes lie in the sink for a few more minutes; take your time, sit next to them, listen to them, smile and hug them a lot. Let them build their own space, on their own time.
Let them know that wherever they go, they can always come back home.