Empty Nest

The silence in the house is loud. The void is prevalent. Emotions overwhelm me. I worry more. Words lack flavour. It is a chore to write, and my favourite camera on the desk is gathering dust. I cook for four instead of three. The garden and its flowers and butterflies fail to motivate me.

Empty Nest - Children Leaving Home - For Education - Kids Grow Up Fast

My husband misses his companion. He hasn’t laughed aloud for a while. I stare into my son’s empty room, straighten his bed, walk away. His wardrobe is chaotic. I suddenly sense an order in the heap of clothes. I let it the way it is.

A few days back my son left home to pursue his studies in another continent. His subject of study was unique. It was not what other kids were doing. It was a road less travelled and explored. In spite of the overwhelming doubts and fears, he stood his ground and worked towards his goal for a year.

As parents, we trusted his passion and encouraged his dreams, but it was an agonizing year filled with worries about the future. It still is. We were glad he got selected, and the smile on his face after many months was precious. The news meant he had to live away from us and we had no other choice, but to let him go.

All young ones have to fly, chase their dreams. Birds have taught us, haven’t they?

I look back and remember his first day at the play home. He was happy to see so many kids. The opportunity to explore a new world lay right in front of him. He disengaged his fingers from mine and went ahead, joined the queue to play the slide. He did not look back, not even once to see if I was there. I anticipated he will cry. He did not. I stood behind a tree and watched him make friends and play along.

After a while, I just wished he would cry, and I could gather him in my arms and run home. But that day, I walked home alone, with tears in my eyes and cried on my husband’s shoulders. They were my first tears as a mother. There have been many more ‘firsts’ for us since. There have been success and failures in many endeavours. Tears and laughter. Abandoned hopes. Unexpected surprises.

In this continuing journey we have learned to trust unconditionally. Encourage dreams and believe in a passion that was not ours. Our collective lesson in parenting is a graphical wave of ups and downs. They are precious and memorable only to us.

But the history of these “firsts” is old, as old as humans. My mother must have felt the same way when I left home for my education. I remember the emotion filled face of my father when I left for my husband’s home, my new home. It must have been the same with our grandparents and then theirs.

In the short time we had to pack and prepare for his journey. My son often kept telling me not to cry when he leaves. “I shall feel sad if you do. And don’t come to the airport. It will definitely make you cry”, he added. We assured him we will not.

When the day came, we were all in smiles but only until the car moved, turned into the alley and vanished from our sight. We stood there for some time, as umpteen parents around the world do, watch their fledgling fly away to sharpen its feathers. Tears rolled down my face. I was glad he did not see it.

In my book of life, Chapter forty-two reads, “Empty Nest.” It mirrors in his book as Chapter eighteen, “Future.”  As Douglas Adam said, “42, is an ordinary, smallish number. But it has the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything.”

Subhashini Chandramani is mother of a teenager. She is a homemaker and poetical story-teller who writes under the pen name, neelavanam which means the blue sky. You can follow her thoughts at  http://neelavanam.tumblr.com/ and @Neelavanam on Twitter. 

  • Swati

    It reminded me of my parents, n my housewife mum more .. She must have went thru the same – First time when I got married and second time – wen my brother left home after being campus seleced.. Its been almost 10 years and since then they are alone! 🙁

    • Dear Swati,
      I am sure they will understand. It is part of parenting to undergo pain while shaping the future of children. It is also the responsibility of children to call on them often and take care as they age.
      Lots of love to you, Swati….

  • Shekar

    You have done the right thing by supporting your son’s perusal of his dream – we did as well – our daughter just graduated with an MFA (3 year program) in Dramatic Script Writing from USC in CA, USA – a very unusual degree, because we believed in her. Today, even as she graduated, she has won two national awards and also able to secure an agent (manager) to represent her with potential client contract situations. If you allow your children to make decisions and back them they will do well for themselves – trusting is the hard part. Good luck with your son.

    • As you rightly pointed out, “trusting is the hard part.” Indeed it is. Not for the parents, but for the friends and relatives who look upon us as if we are committing a blunder, in believing our own children. Thank you for the encouragement.

  • I am outside home for last four years. Recently, Mom asked, “Aren’t you ever going to be actually at home?” I couldn’t answer, as the answer was ‘no’.

  • story of all parents who find happiness in being a companion in their kids dreams!!
    miss u maa 🙂

    • Dear Supriya,
      It is a pleasurable dream for both parents and kids as long as kids look back, and cherish them.

  • Your post was moving. Now that I have a son, I dread that day when he would leave home to pursue his dreams. The other day I was telling my husband, right now our son is with me all the time. In 6 months, he would begin his playschool, and thereafter, his world would expand. Right now mumma and papa are his world, soon he would just be seen coming in and going out for school, friends, classes, activities, play, etc. Let me make the most of these precious times..
    I remember when I left home for studies, mom would cry every time I would leave home to go back to my college or job, etc. I never really went back once I left for graduation

    • Dear Reema,
      Thank you for writing back. Life is designed to be that way, isn’t it. Generations down generations we have moved and learned. You have a long way to go. Cherish these moments with your little one. Catch them on the wing. Love to you and your little one.

  • That is the great irony of parenting, isn’t it? The better you do, the more they believe in themselves and their dreams…which means they someday may need to travel to pursue those dreams. Your husband and you did a great job by him! Of course, you will need to remind me of these comments I am so easily making when it’s time for Sunboy to leave the nest. I only hope I can hold myself together as well as you did! Take care.

    • Dear Kat,
      Sometimes I think, having a big family of three or four children is a blessing. One would miss the kid that left, but the nest will always be occupied. It would actually be a relief when all the three left!
      Yes, I will be with you when Sunboy is ready to fly:-)

  • Well, what do I say! We are just having trouble ‘thinking of’ play school! The fact that she will be away for a ‘long 2 hours’ is causing us anxiety.

    But you are so right. I had been to see dad and mom a couple of days ago. And when I left, I felt a strange feeling. A feeling that told me they feel a sense of loss!

    Awesome post

    • “Play school” is where it all starts, the first lessons of life.
      Many years later, I shall read your post on Parentous and we shall sigh together:-)

  • Nischala

    Subhashini – Such a wonderfully written post… As parents we all know that we have to let-go of our children, but when it comes down to actually “letting-go” it can be so so so hard. Sharing a few words from an earlier article of mine of why it is so difficult for Mothers to let go.. Simply because “Along with your child, goes a part of the mothers body, mind, heart and soul.. And when you’ve lost a part of your body, mind, heart and soul.. Nothing can ever be the same again.. Least of all for a mother”.. I do hope your lil one does well for himself, and his dreams come true. Love – Nischala

  • Now I suddenly realize why my mom cries whenever I talk to her about a job overseas.

  • Chandrasekhar YVN

    Su-bhashini, in the journey through the dark alleys of fear and anxiety about children and their tomorrow, this post of yours will surely be a lamppost that would guide others to be better parents. Missing my father all the more….
    Big Thank you.