September 1st has always felt to me, more like the start of a new year than January 1st. For 20 years of the first 25 years of my life, September marked big changes; new teachers, new class mates, new friends, and sometimes new schools. And then, when I had children, it all began again. For the last 17 years, September has been a time of big changes for my children as they moved from child care to elementary school to high school and now to college and university.
This year, the changes are greater than ever. My youngest child moved out on the weekend to start her first year in university. The changes are enormous for her. She is living away from home for the first time; living with people she does not yet know; and taking courses that she never knew existed. But the changes are big for her father and I as well. In the same way that my son’s birth made parents out of Dan and I, my daughter’s departure has made empty nesters out of us.
My husband and I were listing all of the good things about the kids being gone: my daughter’s room is clean for the first time in months; there are no packs or shoes cluttering the front hall; the kitchen counter is not buried in a pile of dishes; the fridge stays well stocked for several days; we no longer have to provide taxi service for early or late night work shifts; and we longer have to juggle our schedules around our daughter’s work and social calendars. We have fewer responsibilities and more freedom!!
And yet, we have both been walking around the house feeling full of sighs. Parenting really is an ambivalent calling. Yesterday’s irritations and constraints have become today’s longings.