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Lessons from Nature for an Empty Nester

Today’s post is from Reno Moms Blog Guest Contributor Kathie Taylor.  Kathie is a working mother and grandmother, and offers us a great perspective of what it’s like when your children leave the nest and learn to fly. 

I set out for a walk this morning, my husband’s words – “take care of yourself today” – ringing in my ears. A lifelong asthmatic, my lungs sometimes don’t cooperate with me. This has been one of those weekends, so kickboxing was definitely out for my daily exercise, and a nice long walk seemed like just the thing.

kathie taylor 1As I was strolling along, a pretty gray dove flew by me with a stick in her mouth. My thoughts flew to my own empty nest, and how desperately I’ve missed my son, my baby, who moved away to Montana to go to school last fall.

I’ve been a mom for thirty-some years, ever since my first baby, a force of nature in her own right, pushed her way into my life five days after my seventeenth birthday. Shortly after, I took my baby and left my own mother’s nest, and my parents gleefully packed up house and moved to California.

I found a lovely man to round out our little family when my daughter was six-going-on-Madonna. We lived happily ever after, until with some difficulty, the son I had always known would come, became the center of our collective universe.kathie taylor 2

My daughter did everything right – graduated from high school with honors and then from UC Davis. She brought home her fiance and they married, bought a house and had two adorable little boys.

How proud I am of her for not perpetuating my own path, and how lucky we are that they live nearby. When she went off to college, my son was five years old and it was easy for me to bury my sadness at her departure in taking care of him. What a surreal month that was – my oldest starting university and my youngest starting kindergarten!

kathie taylor 3Now my boy has been gone for 10 months, and for those months I have felt a little like this tree I saw on my walk today, splitting my time between the barrenness of grief and the wild hope for my son that he will thrive and grow as he is supposed to do.

And he is.  My son has taken like a native to the healthy active lifestyle known to those who live in beautiful, challenging terrain like Montana. He hikes; skis the back country, “skinning” up mountains in order to blaze his own trail down pristine mountain snow; and is now shopping for a mountain bike. Growing up in the shadow of the Sierras with world-class skiing has prepared him for this life, and he loves it. “It’s like Tahoe,” he says, “magnified.”

This transition wasn’t easy for him – or me. In November, I flew him home two weeks before Thanksgiving because he was exhausted, stressed and fearful of flunking out. We fed him – dorm food had given him a stomach ache for the first 75 days of school — allowed him to sleep as much as he wanted, and talked and talked and talked with him. He may have been fine to wait until the holiday, but I needed to put my hands on him, look into his eyes, and know that he was ok. We sent him back feeling a little better, armed with the list of possible solutions we had brainstormed, thoughts on who to talk to at the university, and all of our hope and love, not showing him our own doubts and fears.

He came home for Thanksgiving two weeks later a young man in control of himself and his destiny, and has not looked back. Now with his freshman year under his belt, he has decided to take a gap year and gain residency in what he now calls “home.” He’s found his first house to rent with his buddies and a full-time job. We sent him a box of our old kitchen things so he could at least cook a meal, and he says they are “eating like kings.” No more stomach aches.

Yesterday, my husband and I scoured our annual neighborhood garage sale for items to fill out our son’s new life – a blender forkathie taylor 4 the smoothies he loves, heavy duty pots and pans, a TV stand and a bookshelf to get his stuff off the floor.

It occurs to me that I am helping him feather his own nest. This garage sale booty is just the kind of thing I needed when my daughter and I went out on our own. He’s excited to load it up in his truck and drive it back to Montana after his all-to-brief two week visit here next month.

It’s been almost six months since I’ve seen and hugged my boy, and my eyes tear up just writing that down. However, what I learned today on my walk was that with a little love and care, that little tree I saw with half of its branches bare, will bud and blossom into one that looks like the autumn blaze maple that lives in my own front yard, where twelve years ago, I used to huddle under the shade of its tiny canopy to wait for my little boy to get off the school bus; and with a little love and self-care, I too will stand like that mighty maple stands today, with my roots grown deep and my branches spread wide.

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