Gone Baby Gone


Mom Vase

‘The Nest. Is it half-empty? Or half-full?’

I think I can trace my rather non-involved mommy style back to a certain babysitting gig where I had to keep track of the kids’ poops on a chart. There were two of them (kids, that is), and a correspondingly healthy number of poops.

That, and a few other instances of dealing with what we now call ‘helicopter parenting’ put me off hovering. But I have to admit in all honesty that I was never destined to be one of those let’s-bake-a-zillion-cookies-and-then-whip-up-some-papier-mache-heads kind of moms.

The Dude (thank you!) was happy to handle Playground Duty. When the Child would say ‘Run, Mommy, run!’, I was apt to reply ‘Mommies don’t run; babysitters run’. And when well-meaning adults would exclaim ‘She really should go to Disney World!’, I would shoot back ‘Great idea! You take her.’

Don’t get me wrong; I excelled at such mommy duties as reading-to-the-kid and going-to-the-movies. The parenting proceeded apace. And, for the most part, childhood chugged along very nicely indeed. There was a sticky period in high school (not unusual in the least, I discovered on comparing notes with other moms) when I admit that I had her room mentally repurposed as a guest room/study.

The taking-her-to-college part? Didn’t phase me. (See above commemorative video for proof). Five years ago today (which, trust me, feels like five minutes ago), we loaded her stuff (and her) in the car, dumped her off, and instead of going to the ‘Welcome from the Dean’, the Dude and I headed for the nearest bar to toast our new freedom.

Which meant that I was totally unprepared for the ambush of emotion that greeted me when we got home to the empty nest, er apartment.

I would happen upon something as innocuous as an unmatched sock — and be gobsmacked with emotion. You don’t want to know about the ‘Mom’ inscribed hand-thrown vase or the little picture frame with stickers on it.

The Dude, trying to be helpful, bless him, would say intended-to-be-soothing things like ‘Come on, did you want her to stay a baby forever?’ Well, no. Duh, obviously. (Her Baby Stage, with its 24-hour-demanding-bits, wasn’t my favorite anyway. The going-to-the-beach-and/or-skiing stages were right up there, though).

Friends would try to cheer me up. ‘Now you can run around naked!’ You’d be amazed how many people suggested this. And by how excited they got suggesting it.

So, anyway. I painted the room, stowed the emotion-stoking tchotches. And, eventually, I got used to the baby being gone.

Then, guess what? She came back. And I don’t mean just for Thanksgiving.

Anybody out there have ideas for dealing with an Empty (or not-so-empty) Nest? Please note that I already have ‘run around naked’ on my list.

Amagansett, New York. August 2014


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10 thoughts on “Gone Baby Gone

  1. josypheen

    My mum told me our generation is the boomerang generation because you fling us out, and then every few years we come back and live in the nest for a bit…until you fling us out again. 🙂

    All three of my siblings have been back home to live for a while…I didn’t get around to it yet, but maybe we will if we move back to the UK!?

    It’s not all our fault – it’s blooming expensive to find a place to live, so sometimes its easier to come back home to annoy our parents and prevent them from wandering around naked too much.

    • Ah yes! So true, Josy. So true. Almost everyone I know has a nest that is not so empty — including mine (!) The Child has been back several times, bless her. Like you say, things are not so easy for the young once they’ve ‘fledged’. And as for we parents, well, running around naked can get a bit, um, chilly.

  2. drallisonbrown

    Perfect timing, as we were just on schedule to become empty-nesters. My son left for basic training and advanced training a year ago. I was completely beside myself (I’m not ashamed to admit it), but he is now back home and living upstairs. In fact, I can hear him laughing and shouting while gaming with friends, as I write…Daughter just graduated high school and decided to stay home to go to community college for the first 2 years, since it is free (admittedly a wise idea). So, sadly, my husband and I only get to run around naked on Sundays, when both kids are at work.

    • Much healthier to run around naked weekly. Might be a tad tough on the heart otherwise (!) Seriously, tho, or at least semi-seriously (!), I totally ‘get’ the not-so-empty nest syndrome. Most of my fam and friends have at least one fledgling who flew the coop, then flittered right back to roost, at least for a bit. Hang in there!

  3. Offspring, as you might know, is 17 and many months right now. So I’m reading this from the “yeah, could you hurry up and clear that room for me? I need the space” side. I’m sure there will be some tears and some worry when he goes, but I’m fairly confident that my new fx/sculpting space will more than compensate.

    I’m reading this in the future, so I’m sure you already solved your nest emptying problem, but if not… did you try having the Dude run around naked?

    • Hahaha! I’m afraid if I had The Dude run around naked we would be titillated — but to titter, and that’s about it! As for the Empty Nest thing, it turned into the YoYoMa syndrome. Which is a condition I named for that feeling when you’re ‘up and down’ about your kid coming home — and leaving. *sigh* Maybe I should take up sculpting

  4. angelanoelauthor

    First, I love the word “gobsmacked” and plan to use it in a sentence today. Second, I love my kiddo like crazy but I don’t suddenly love playing Mousetrap just because he does. So, I totally relate to eschewing playground running. My child leaves me part-time to be with his dad, so I feel his leaving each time. But how it will be in ten years when he begins “adulting” . . . I can only imagine. Thanks for the fun post!

    • Dear Angela. I am gobsmacked by your pithy comment. (I also love the word ‘pithy’ and use it every chance I get). Sounds like you’re getting child-leaving practice right now, which could very well be a good thing in the long run. That final separation is harder than I thought it would be (!)

  5. Debra Fried

    Alice – I love your writing and I love this piece. Can SO relate to thinking something isn’t getting to you, only to have it GET TO YOU when you’re least expecting. I love your blog!

  6. Dan Randant

    Sending this to my daughter for her perusal and enjoyment.

    She has two little ones to contend with.

    Nice job.


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