I read this blog post thanks to a friend sharing it on Facebook, and I had too many ideas to share in a comment, so I’m writing my own post with my takes on the idea. Liane Kupferberg Carter wrote “For Some Moms, the Nest May Never Be Empty.”
I wrote last year that my second daughter, who has Down syndrome, turned 18, and it was a different experience than when my oldest daughter did. She’s now 19, and she completed high school this June. That change and others of this year have been more impactful than her just turning 18. This year, she’s in a new class setting that’s at our local community college, but that’s still run by our county school district, as was her high school class. She is still learning life skills, but the class is working even more toward the students being able to move about in society on their own and work as much in ways they are able to and will enjoy. She carries around a small purse with a little money and her state I.D. card. She got a bus pass and her own library card (which I just hadn’t done with her yet myself). She’s talking more about socializing. Or maybe I’m picking up on it more. With her having “graduated” from high school, having her be able to be “out there” in the world in ways that work for her seems more imminent. I’m thinking more about finding ways for her to get out there and socialize with her peers. I’m thinking about the possibilities of her immediate and slightly more distant future, whereas before I was just putting that on the back burner in my mind, “putting a pin in it,” because there’s just so much else for me to think about RIGHT NOW (I mean, having three kids still at home, plus a “grown” daughter and now a grandson — yay!!! — is just a ton of work anyway. A woman can only do so much).
My husband has kind of set in his head that she will just live with us forever, so we will never be empty-nesters, just as Carter wrote. I’ve always had in my head that she certainly could move out to different kinds of settings that she may enjoy more than just staying with her parents, at least off and on. I still think that. She’s pretty social and capable.
At the same time, my nest continues to feel different. My oldest moved out two years ago when she got married, which really changed the dynamics in our home. We have four daughters, and it’s astounding how the dynamics shifted when just the oldest one moved out. For one, I really mourned when that oldest got married. It took me months to come to grips with it. I missed her so much, and having her be married and “belong” to someone else made it different than just going off to college. For another thing, I just didn’t like the way the remaining three interacted, compared with how it was when my oldest was still at home. They still bicker more than when she was here (as one example), and it’s been 2-plus years.
I’m acutely aware of the differences between me and my friends, especially the ones I follow on social media. They have similar age gaps in their families, at least at the beginning (there’s two years between the first two, but then a four-year gap after I had Marissa — I just wasn’t ready for another infant too soon because she still felt like an infant and toddler for a longer time than the first had — and then a five-year gap between the last two because it took three long years to get our adopted girl), and while I see their oldest out and doing various fun “new-adult” things like my first, then I see their second and third children out doing those things, too, and I feel like my situation has stalled. Sure, it’s comparing, and you know what they say about that, but it’s just always there. I see it. I feel it. I feel “other.”
I still have plenty of parenting time in me: I have a sophomore and a fifth-grader. From experience, I know the remaining time at home is going to fly with my sophomore, who really keeps me hopping. Then she’ll fly on out of the nest on to all kinds of great things. She’s an achiever, like I was. And the 10-year-old, well, 8 years still seems like a long time.
So the nest is still full-ish. But I have enough taste of the birds starting to fly out that I can feel those changes. I can feel the things that aren’t changing. I also worry a bit about things I’m not doing, which certainly isn’t different from any parent, no matter their child’s situation. I have just recently watched one episode of “Born This Way,” which follows some young-adult people with Down syndrome, and it stirred up all kinds of feelings of sadness, guilt, wistfulness, worry, etc. I was happy for the ways those young adults are just being “normal” young people. I felt guilt for not doing more to get my daughter “out there” more like that. In a way, I don’t want to have that to compare my situation to, because it’s almost harder emotionally for me to compare with people who are essentially more in my situation than others I know. It sets a standard I don’t know I can meet. I mean, I’m sure it’s meant in part to give me hope for a good life for my daughter, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I compare negatively.
I certainly know I’m not ready to deal more with my daughter’s dating future (which is probably a whole other post on its own). It’s hard enough to deal with certain simpler issues with her when she acts like an 8-year-old in many respects, let alone the complex world of dating.
I guess that’s where I put a pin in a few items still, work on some that I’d pinned earlier, and know that I can do this, one or two topics and needs at a time. And whether she eventually flies out of the nest permanently or occasionally, we’ll be (mostly) ready for it when we amble up to that bridge that needs crossing.