An empty nest gives time for reflection

I’m about to become an empty-nester, at least for the next six months, that is.

Like his father, stepfather, both grandfathers and his older brothers before him, the youngest is shipping off to U.S. Navy boot camp on Valentine’s Day. I actually took the day off to drive down and see him sworn in to serve the country as a reservist. It was a moving ceremony, both as an American and a mom.

Anytime one of the children flew the coop there were always others around to take my mind off the fact that my flock had decreased in size. But being how he is baby of the family, this time it’s different. This time, I am forced to admit that I have reached the age where I am an empty-nester. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

We spent his last weekend cleaning out his room as he determined what he has that he wants me to bring to him at his “A” School down at Joint Base San Antonio in about eight weeks or so once he gets settled. The Schechter guitar made the list along with his video game consoles and a few other things that he will need to pass the time when he’s not in class or studying. Everything else, he said, can either go into boxes or we can give it to Goodwill.

When we were done, he had a suitcase and three small boxes in his pile of stuff for me to bring to him. Most his stuff will just stay here, gathering dust until he comes home, only to leave again (I suspect), as he plans to move out into his own place with some friends. It’s sad for me as a mom, to see his life packed up into those boxes, or those lonely clothes, hanging in the closet waiting for his return.

Since making the announcement to family and friends of his leaving, I keep hearing the same questions. “What are you going to do? Won’t you be lonely without him?” My personal favorite came from one of my sisters. In typical smart mouth fashion that we all inherited from my dad, she asked, “When’s the party?”

This is all still new to me so answering those questions is tough. To date, I am passing the time with work, a good book and by spending time with my wonderfully supportive husband. As I sit here writing this I feel sad, then proud, then sad again. I’m like a little roller coaster, up then down, then up, then down again.

You see, my children were my life for nearly 27 years. Not having them around is always tough, two already live on the East Coast where they spent much of their lives, the same with my three stepchildren. I now have four total in Southern Maryland, the lone wolf out on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and now the straggler who is currently in Great Lakes, Illinois, soon to be in Texas.

I’m proud of them all. I believe I have raised them to be responsible, civic minded adults who know right from wrong. So far, they are all succeeding in life, some are better off financially than others, but they all have a solid moral compass, they all make smart decisions and rarely forget to call their mom on Sundays.

As of the time you read this, he will only have been gone a couple of days but some things I am looking forward to, aside from him coming home, are the simple ones. Alone time with my husband, not having to share my car and a lower grocery bill since my house is no longer filled with hungry 18-year-old boys are all appealing thoughts to me. Though I will happily deal with those things upon his return in about 29 weeks.

I’m sad the little one is gone, but mostly, the pride I feel outweighs the loneliness that seems to go hand in hand with the little fella being away from home. To see my children grow into the young men and women they have become is gratifying to say the least.

Some people say children are how we leave our mark on the world. If that is the case, then I know my mark on this world will be one that is noticed.

But hey, it’s only my opinion!

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