Saturday, August 29, 2015

It's Never too Late to Learn by Karen Rock


It's Never too Late to Learn by Karen Rock

I brought my daughter, Danielle, to college this week and learned a few things without attending a single lecture.

1.       1. An empty nest doesn’t have to be negative. Think of it as an opportunity to fill it with new and wonderful things. My sister and I are joining a cake-decorating class at Michael’s and I’m excited to bring home new gadgets to try out in my kitchen. (Pssst. Don’t tell my husband ;)
 

2.       Being a parent doesn’t end when your child is eighteen. Danielle still needs advice and help. The only difference is that I offer it when she asks rather than jumping in and taking charge or assuming I know best. For example, bees kept coming into her dorm room (which we have nicknamed The Apocalypse- lol) and my husband talked her through the right channels to take care of the problem. Our job as parents may change, but it’s never done- and thank goodness for that!
3.       My identity is still the same. I don’t have to be a hands-on mother to be me. If anything, having this time on my own is giving me a chance to get back in touch with myself- my new self- who is older, wiser, and eager to meet the future rather than dwell on the past.
 
4.       Just as ice is still water, a separated family, though reconfigured, is still a family. That is a constant I can count on no matter the time or distance.

5.       I haven’t lost a child, I’ve gained an adult whom I’m so proud to have raised. No mourning the “loss” of the kid she was. I’m celebrating the person she’s becoming. There are lots of ways to contribute to society and raising a compassionate, respectful and conscientious person is giving the world a great gift.  At the end of the Steve Hawking movie THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, he and his ex-wife look at their children playing in the palace gardens and he types: Look what we made. It was such a poignant moment because even a man as great as Steve Hawking knows that raising amazing kids is a far greater achievement than even solving the origin of our universe.
 
6.       I can master new technology. For example, I now know Skype isn’t some complex technology only 35-year-olds and under can comprehend. It’s just an app on my computer that lets me see and talk to my daughter every day. And yes- Danielle got a big chuckle when she helped Greg and I bumble through setting up our account. But now, I have added three cousins, both of my sisters and a friend from high school to my new Skype list and can talk to them, too! So happy to have learned this and renewed and strengthened connections with other loved ones.

7.       Change is frightening but, survivable… even something to be celebrated. There is no milestone or Hallmark card to acknowledge or congratulate us on having successfully reared a child, yet there should be. This is a big transition and one worth some kind of shout out… so I’m giving one, right here in this post, to all the moms and dads of adult children. Let’s be proud and happy about all that we’ve done and will continue to do.

I hope these new lessons help you as much as they helped me! Remember that just because you aren’t as directly involved in your child’s daily life doesn’t mean you are less of a parent. If anything, your child’s growing independence says one thing: “Job well done, mom and dad!”

What are your thoughts about the “empty nest”, whether it’s in your future, present or past? If you have a chance, I would love hearing from you in the comments section below. Thanks!

22 comments:

  1. Beautifully said, Karen! My experiences during our son's college years were similar. Now he's 25 - successful in his career, and in a strong marriage. Even though my "nest" has changed drastically, it's a happy place because we're both living our dreams. (A fun thing about my studio apartment - when son & d-i-l come to stay, it's like camping!)

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    1. Thanks, Magdalena :) So often people talk of the empty nest in negative terms, but like you said in your beautiful post yesterday, we can change our lives, downsize, and have a new phase of our lives that's just as rich and meaningful!

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  2. Karen, your post brings back memories of when we took our daughters to college. They grow up fast, but having an empty nest is a new adventure. We live close to our younger daughter now that she is married and has children of her own. It is nice to relate to our kids as adults. We rely on each other.

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    1. I hope for that, too, Merrillee. It must be wonderful to have that proximity and closeness to your adult children and to get to see your grandchildren grow! I joked to my husband that we'll sell the house and get one of those nice RVs and just follow Danielle around when she graduates ;) (actually- it really wasn't a joke...)

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  3. Thank you for your wise words Karen! I send my daughter, Julie, off to school next year. I just don't know how I'll cope without my not-so little one. I think I'll take your suggestion have some self-improvement time. Maybe I'll take a cooking class of my own. Judging by my family's groans of disappointment whenever I bring out some over cooked meat, I could use a few pointers-LOL

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    1. I feel your pain on the over-cooked meat- lol. My husband is all about grilling :) I'm excited for you to take the class and have this chance to focus on yourself :)

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  4. I know just how you feel Karen! When I sent my son, Ethan, off to school for the first time a few years ago I was devastated. But I picked myself back up and started knitting. I had always wanted to learn to knit and I decided to go for it. Now I can make scarves and blankets in a lot of different colors! Sending your child away is never easy, but I think having a distraction helps ease the pain.

    -Janet

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    1. Hi, Janet :) knitting is a great skill to learn and so relaxing as well! Understandably, our focus is our children but when they become independent it's great to find something special just for us. Thanks so much for stopping by the blog.

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  5. Well put, Karen! There's still so much to do and say. And it's also the perfect time for couples to rediscover each other!

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    1. Hah! Leave it to you, Dale, to bring the romance into it- and a very very important point :) As couples we can see each other as partners in finding happiness with each other and bringing joy to our lives. Children do such a wonderful job of that, but when they leave, it reminds us to focus on each other :) thanks for your great comment.

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  6. Sending your kids off to college is never easy. Thank you for this well-written post, Karen! It brought back old memories of when we drove our only child Jack to college. It changed our relationship a lot because now, we're all adults with lots of love and mutual respect for one another. But, it seems it's for the better (since we almost never argue and fight now)!

    Wes

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    1. Lol- cheers to less arguing and more getting along and respect, Wes! You made great points. I was afraid of the transition, but having made it, I see all of the wonderful benefits of being the parent of and adult. Thanks!

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  7. Thanks for the post Karen! I found getting involved in community service helped me fill the extra time, and meet some wonderful people after my babies left. So glad our empty nest is now filled with little grandbabies though!
    - Barb

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    1. Awww! I didn't think of the grand babies aspect which is the best part of seeing your children grown and starting their own lives! I can't wait to spoil grandkids. And community service is a wonderful way to give of yourself. I applaud you for doing that. My puppy, Zoey, has been going to training and if she makes it far enough, I'd love to take her to Nursing Homes as she's so soft and loving- the perfect dog to cuddle and warm hearts :)

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  8. Karen you are so right about empty nest syndrome. It was incredibly difficult to let our first born go off to school but we still had our two other children to take care of. Then our nest slowly got emptier as the other two left for school. My husband and I mourned for a while, but then we took up a few hobbies. We started bird watching and going on hikes when it's warm. And we skate on our pond out back when it's winter for exercise. The kids keep commenting on how fit we've gotten!

    Best,
    Jennifer

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    1. What a wonderful life you and your husband share! I love bird watching, too and we have great mountains to hike here in the Adirondacks. I bet you and your husband are fit and happy which brings your children the same joy you gave them :)

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  9. I remember being so shocked that after the tears dried, I had such fun re-inventing myself. It sounds as though you're all on the right track. Have fun!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! It is a time for reinvention and I'm discovering a lot about myself that is either knew or parts I had to put aside while child rearing :)

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  10. I remember when I had to figure out how to use skype for the first time!! My baby still teases me but I think I'm getting the hang of all the new and hip tech!! But I agree getting to know your children as adults is such a rewarding experience!! (By the way I can't wait for your next book! I loved a league of her own!!)
    ~ Kathy

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    1. Wow! Thanks, Kathy :) My next book comes out in November- it's a holiday wedding anthology and was lots of fun to write- WIINTER WEDDING BELLS- with Jennifer Snow and Kristine Rolofson. Would you believe I actually put my puppy on Skype with my daughter? I never would have imagined doing that before but, like you said, there are lots of wonderful experiences to look forward to as the parent to an adult. Today she told me about how she signed up to join different clubs and I felt so excited for her and for me because we have lots more to share with each other :) thanks so much for stopping by the blog!

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  11. Hey Karen, It's been several year's now since the youngest was off to college. Back then my oldest who still lived at home had it into her head she should leave home first. I had that to deal with first. She moved in with a boyfriend in a neighboring town. When my youngest was getting ready the battles began. We argued over such stupid stuff. I'll explain that to you later. Anyway's, Since my oldest was named after Barry Manilow's song Mandy.... I didn't realize until just before Melissa left home that Barry had a song that said ," sweet Melissa" in it! So, there was two Barry song's with my daughter's names in music. Everytime the commercial came on tv I would hear "sweet Melissa". The actual day she left and had walked out the door I cried . I cried buckets! Doug held me and let me. Then for a long time I would hear Barry's song an cry all over. I just hated that she was gone. Over time it stopped. She kept in touch when ever she was alone by cell phone. She graduated out of college, has had jobs, moved several times, had a cat that is my " grand kitty", and now is engaged to be married next fall. I still miss her. I know I will cry again when she get's married. I just can't help it! As for Mandy? She still lives at home so my empty nest didn't even hit!!!! Pam

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  12. You have a lot of good points here, Karen. For me it was a heartbreak when my kids left for college. But having them visiting on college breaks was a big feast. They loved it as they were treated as guests of honor.

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