Perspective Online

Empty-Nesting Takes Surprising Turn

by Donna Armstrong-Lackey '85

Who was I kidding? The prospect of empty-nesting in the advent of our last child, and only daughter, going off to college had sounded so great following high school graduation. She has worked so hard graduating with honors, and we are so very proud. Friends ask with concerned looks, “How’s it feel to know she’ll be leaving?” I literally begin a happy dance complete with “jazz hands,” exclaiming “I can’t wait!” Of course, I try hard not to do this in front of my daughter who has already called us out repeatedly for making post-childrearing plans in front of her.

Empty-Nesting Takes Surprising TurnThen reality begins setting in as the last minute shopping has mother and daughter hitting all the shops for bed linens, housewares, and cute shoes. She catches me staring at her in the middle of Bed, Bath and Beyond while she decides on purple or aqua curtains. “What?” she asks with a look of aggravation since I obviously haven’t heard anything she just said. “You’ve grown into such a beautiful girl,” I say quietly. She rolls her eyes and moves on. Whoa, where did that come from? I was always the “cool Mom,” not the sentimental hovering “helicopter parent!”

Finally, the day comes, and after lugging three, large laundry bins of clothes, mega packs of paper towels, computer equipment, and of course, shoes, I begin making her elevated dorm-room bed. With an immediate flashback, I see my mother doing the same for me many years before. She has tears in her eyes, and I’m shocked knowing my mom, the total professional woman, never cries. This is what it feels like to let your heart grow. By letting your daughter become her own person, your heart is saying I’m strong enough to let you fly, but warm enough to be there when you need me.

As her dad and I tightly hug her (more than once), our eyes meet both filled with tears. No words are needed. Pulling away from the curb, I lose it. “Are you alright?” my husband asks. “I will be.”

Now two weeks have passed and the ‘new quiet’ is settling in. Where are the unexplained thuds of furniture upstairs being rearranged yet again, where are the slamming doors as she rushes in with great news, and why is there always hot water during showers now? My girl is having the time of her life, and we are finding our new rhythm as a couple again. As my husband says, “Let’s plan to be spontaneous like we used to.” Okay, a little irony on his part, but you know where we’re headed. Empty-nesting may work out after all.

Donna Armstrong-Lackey, M.P.A. ’85 is the senior vice president of business development for Carroll Tomorrow and the Carroll Chamber of Commerce.

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