How empty is too empty?

How empty is too empty?

Over the past few months, I have been hearing lots of sappy quotes, all related to what happens to you when your last child graduates from high school and begins his or her quest for independence.

Some of those kids go abroad for the year, some kids decided to start college right away, and some kids just stare at you aimlessly, trying to figure out what it all means, and who are they supposed to listen to? Side point — what these kids don’t realize is that they have parents who went through the exact same things just a few years earlier. (What? My parents were once not parents? That is just creepy. How could they possibly know about anything that we are going through??)

The one term that keeps coming to the forefront is “empty nest.” Let’s discuss that for a moment, shall we? An empty nest is what happens when mom and dad bird lay a bunch of eggs. The eggs hatch, and little baby birdies come out. Mom and dad feed the babies delicious and healthy meals — worms, bugs, all really healthy and chock full of protein. And then, one day, the little birdies decide that it’s time to leave the nest and go out on their own, and the mom and dad look at them lovingly and say, “See ya never, kids!”

And that is the end of that.

So we take this “empty nest” idea and apply it to our lives. According to what I have heard, I will be having an empty nest next year. None of my boys will be living at home. Son #3 is choosing which school to go to in Israel, and sons #2 and #1 will be doing something that may or may not be aggravating their parents. But won’t they still be coming home for the Sabbath Queen? Won’t I still be doing their laundry and cooking for them, so their tummies are always happy? Won’t they still be bringing their friends by to hang out, eat our snacks, and drink our water bottles? So if the answer to any or all of those questions is “yes,” then I don’t think my nest will really be empty.

Now, I am not a glass-half-full kind of gal, so I usually don’t try to see the positive in every situation, but I am going to be doing this with the whole empty nest situation. And I hope that I will be able to be helpful to those other mothers who are in the same situation that I am in. So, going forward, there is a new definition for the term “empty nest.”

An empty nest is a home where no one comes home ever. No one calls to ask you to borrow the car, or to pick up some orange juice for them. No one ever comes looking for a tie or a pair of pants they left to have a button put on. There are no requests for meatballs, potato kugel, or chocolate chip cookies. It is quiet all of the time. That is an empty nest.

So until that happens, I think I am good. Empty nest no longer applies to me and many others. Is there another term we can use? I was thinking of “parental hiatus” but that is never going to happen — not as long as I have the energy to give my opinion (can you imagine?) Or “fleeting vacancy?” That sounds better. Because there is going to be a fleeting vacancy in son #3’s room — but only fleeting. Unless, of course, he decides to stay in Israel and never come home. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

So, for now, I will be clinging to the next six months like my life depends upon it, because, well, it does. And I will try to conquer each term and cliched saying as it comes my way. And I will continue to pray that I never, ever, have an empty nest.

Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck totally understands why birds get rid of their young so quickly… but won’t be going into it any time soon. Good luck young parents! Good luck!

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