Friday, September 19, 2008

Oh, Boo-Hoo

Articles about the so-called "empty nest syndrome" drive me crazy. Conversely, I love that I received this one from my own 26-year-old daughter, who sent it along with a note that read "Here...this will get you all riled up. :)"

The linked article isn't as bad as some. It includes a melancholy dad in with the weepy moms, a rarity for empty-nest commentary, as well as some women who are more exuberant than misty-eyed about their new "childless" status. Still, even leaving the deeply anti-feminist subtext of articles like these aside, all this moaning and wailing over the growth, development and departure of one's children mystifies me.
Isn't their maturity the point? Why would it make anyone "sick with sorrow?"

I saw my daughter off to college and through graduation with delight and pride. Ditto with her younger brother, whose departure created the much-ballyhooed empty nest at our house. I can honestly say my pride and delight were wholly undiluted by either grief or relief. (A little smugness maybe, over everything having turned out so nicely.) And I never once wondered who I was or what I might do with myself once I was no longer a resident parent - just as I never considered being a resident parent my raison-d'ĂȘtre or my justification for the space I take up on the planet.

Any parent who believes, as I do, that a parent's duty is to guide his or her kids on their way to happy, productive, independent adulthood ought to be thrilled to see them go off to college and then on into life. Of course, there are nostalgic moments - and in hindsight it's amazing how fast the years seem to have gone by, especially when you remember those interminable afternoons of nonstop infant fussing or the four years of siblings at each other's throats or the terrifying (and blessedly rare) hours of waiting for medical situations to resolve safely. But what's with the "I need them to pace my work life," "I'm so lonely and cranky" and "My life is too far on its way to over" baloney described in the article?

And it's not like this "it's all about me" attitude toward child-raising does kids any good either. Anyone looking forward to hiring or managing the college student in the article who thinks the best way to find Pilates studios, dentists and the meaning of words is to call her working mother in another state?

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