The Circle of Life

It’s been nearly one year since our oldest son moved out after finishing college and made my husband and I official empty nesters. I had been so used to running around organizing other people’s lives for the past 24 years that I discovered that I didn’t have to do that anymore.  I heard someone say once that if you don’t know what to do, then don’t do anything. For me it has been a year of transitions and a lot of doing nothing.

At work, there has been chaos, and I chose not to get involved. Staff are leaving, transferring, and retiring. New young staff are being hired. They are old enough to be my children.

At home, my husband got a new job, our son announced he’d be moving to Australia by the end of the summer, and my daughter has a boyfriend.

So as my nest has emptied, I have watched other women fill their nests. I have crossed paths with more pregnant women this year than I can ever remember. I have purchased six copies of my standard baby gift, Your Child’s Health, a great reference book for parents. I have also crossed paths with pregnant birds.

This Canadian goose was in a median in a university parking lot. The poor dad goose was siting on the eggs and wouldn’t leave. Someone brought him a bowl of water. I ran out and brought back some tortillas for him to eat.

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At our neighborhood park there have been five Canadian Geese families that have taken over the pond.

So as to not feel left out, on my own back porch, a robin family made a nest one weekend when we were out of town.

The baby robins stick their heads up and all we can see are little beaks and necks.

Mama robin is very vigilant and busy hunting for food for the babies.

Nature took over and filled my nest again. I’ve had a perfect view of it all watching life unfold and still not doing anything…waiting for my next move.

Who loves you? I do

I’m an empty nester mother. Maybe my kids will send me a text this Sunday on Mother’s Day, if I’m lucky. But who said Mother’s Day is all about waiting for acknowledgement from your kids? I’ve never had the fairy tale, mushy thing going on anyway.

I wouldn’t  be a mom if it wasn’t for them right? So I decided to send my kids Mother’s Day cards. I went off to the store to check out the greeting card selection. I saw cards for godmothers, someone who has been like a mother to me, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, mothers-to-be, and friends.  Why wouldn’t they have a card to wish your kids a thank you  to have had the opportunity to be their Mom? Twenty-six years ago I wanted so much to be a mother. I wanted to be the best mom ever. I was given a gift that not every woman gets the privilege to experience.

So this is the card I chose. Who Loves You? I do. Because I wouldn’t be a Mom if I didn’t have you! Happy Mother’s Day to the best kids ever.  Call if what you like; reverse psychology, guilt-trip, whatever. A new tradition of expressing maternal love is born.

O! Wyoming!

I got out of town to breathe some fresh air this past weekend.  My husband and I helped our son move into his new apartment with his first full-time job, which happens to be in Wyoming. He and his dad went up with the U-Haul the day before so I had the opportunity to ponder the landscape alone and reminisce over past memories of this big square state.

If my life was a tree, the state of Wyoming would be one of the branches. Wyoming is noted for cowboys, Old Faithful, and no state taxes. My Wyoming branch has its own set of interesting leaves.  

1. Wind.

Bar none the windiest state I’ve ever been in. You feel the whoosh the minute you hit the state line.

2. W.O.S.  Wide Open Spaces.

  • Stripped and ripped tire parts on the highway
  • Beauty of nature. Wildlife, mountain ranges, and a big blue sky.
  • Energy boom. Open pit coal mines, wind turbines, oil refineries, and natural gas. There is even a town named Sinclair, WY. You know the green dinosaur?
  • Country radio stations. The Ranch Breakfast Show on the local public radio station had me smiling as I was listening to cowboy tunes down the road. 

3. Commuter Student. 

I spent two years commuting to the University of Wyoming getting a post-masters degree with a rural focus. I know the faculty couldn’t believe that this city dweller drove 150 miles once a month for this program. But, the tuition was cheaper (thanks to WICHE) and the curriculum was perfect for me and my husband when the kids were in grade school. I also grew up in the rural midwest so it wasn’t such a stretch for me. One memory of my rural-focused eduation was that some Wyoming residents referred to long trips in the state as a “six pack drive”.

4. A red state with blue splotches.

Wyoming is a conservative state. I used to tell people that the only liberals in the state were in Laramie and Jackson Hole. During my time attending classes there, a gay student named Matthew Shepard was brutally killed because of his sexual orientation. It was extremely sad. The Laramie Project depicted interviews of the townspeople afterward. It debuted in 2000 as a stage play. It is now common educational reading in colleges on healing divisions and understanding the gay community.   

5. Eddie Rabbitt.

When I moved to Colorado in the 1980’s, my roommate took me to Cheyenne Frontier Days. We saw the rodeo, roamed around, and ate funnel cakes.  And when the sun went down the concert began and we saw Eddie Rabbitt. I actually had the fortune to see him in concert twice. Hey one of his songs was Rocky Mountain Music. It was my welcome to the West song.

6. Fond Friends.

We had great friend from Indiana, who spent a lot of summers working in Yellowstone or vacationing in the Big Horns. He saw it as summer camp and it kept him young. We met up with him half dozen times during his trips there. Everytime I think of Wyoming I think of Cowboy Cam hiking down the trail with his fishing pole.  I miss him so.

I wish fond memories for my son for his time in Wyoming, however long that will be. This is his time for his life tree to expand and grow. There are wide open opportunities in that sky.

Parents are just people

Turner Classic Movies showed Splendor in the Grass the 1961 classic with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty last night. I sat down and watched the whole movie. I was riveted to the tale of two teenagers who fall in love during Roaring Twenties and advent of the Stock Market crash. The financial state of the country from riches to rags and recovery mirrored the tale of these two sweethearts.

The couple, Bud and Deanie, are faced with how the fairy tale of  love fades and how heartbreak changes them. Deanie experiences an emotional breakdown when she and Bud are no longer a couple. It is uncomfortable for her friends and parents to witness and accept. Her mother nearly breaks down when the experts say that her daughter needs professional help. Mrs Loomis can’t believe that what is troubling her daughter can’t be fixed at home.

Near the end of the film, Deanie is speaking with her psychiatrist about whether she can handle seeing her parents again. On a previous visit her mother talked incessantly abouting wanting her little girl back home again. Deanie acknowledged she was not that little girl anymore. The psychiatrist then uttered, “Parents are just people”.  And that was the phrase that hit me smack in the eye.

I am almost an empty nester.  I haven’t been able to put my thoughts into words until I saw that movie last night. My son graduated from college a week ago. His growth into adulthood has been painful for the entire family. He has struggled with every part of studying, taking tests, caring for himself, and social relationships.  But he had grown in many aspects of his academia. 

He lived in the dorms and an apartment the first two years of college and then moved back home the last two. I didn’t want to be the bitch of a mother, but I was. I set my boundaries that he needed to do basic things to be living with his parents in our house. He rarely accomplished taking a shower using the soap; he never brushed his teeth; and rarely did his laundry. He was loud and brash, playing his video games late into the night  just a door away from our bedroom. His mantra to me was, “Whatever you tell me to do I am going to do the opposite”.

He will be moving within a week to start his new job in the next state and six hours away. He hasn’t written his thank you cards and he hasn’t made a “To Do” list. He has celebrated his graduation by lounging around and doing nothing for the past week. I don’t want to be the bitchy parent anymore. I have advised him of my boundaries. I am available until Friday and he will need to make an appointment if he needs my help before leaving. I am planning on going to a hotel or to my friend’s house for the weekend while he packs up.  I am not going to be yelled at because he can’t find anything. I refuse to have the expectation of helping him when he waits until the last minute to throw everything together.

No parent wishes to see their child struggle. It is innate to want to prevent the pain.  I don’t have super powers to make everything right anymore, because my son has not practiced his coping skills. I think my son has been mad at me because I don’t want to take care of him any more. He does a lousy job of taking care of himself. My daughter told me that I have done everything to try and teach him but he didn’t want to do it.

But parents are just people. The last several months I have tried to accept my son for who he is. Hot mess and all, it has been hard for me. I asked him to accept me for who I am. I, like him, want to be respected and loved just like everyone on the planet. And children grow up and they are just people too.  Best wishes to you my son.