Natalie CaineIf you are a parent whose child is heading to college for the first time, or returning, hopefully you bought yourself a bandanna. Why, you ask? It lasts longer than Kleenex and is easier to find in your Mary Poppins bag filled with directions, camera, money, power bar, credit card, keys, and ID.

I carried a blue one then. Now I am in the habit and carry a red one. People ask me,”What is that for?’ or they say, “Are you kidding me, you carry that in your purse everyday instead of tissues.”
What can I say, I choose what I like.

I for sure did not choose, sobbing once I got in the airplane to fly back home, 3000 miles, without my daughter, who , by joy and sorrow , I hugged goodbye at her college dorm. So, I relate to what you, the parents, are traveling now. My daughter is a proud college graduate working in San Francisco. I\’m in Los Angeles.

You never forget that move in day. I am glad for that. It is a complex memory and one I am happy to have. Waiting in line, meeting the roommates and their families, carrying boxes out of the rental car into the dorm, buying more hangars and power strips, opening an account at the bank with her, lunch and dinner in the cafeteria, and then off campus, book store( one of my favorite stops), grocery store and pharmacy. See, I told you, you won’t forget.

But, I do forget what they talked about with all of us, the parents, sitting in an auditorium, as our children went to their college meeting. I don’t forget that bell ringing and them saying, “OK, it is time for you, parents, to say goodbye to your children.” Mostly, I remember hearing tears, and seeing wrap around hugs.

I stayed another day, since I knew three thousand miles would be a big gap between us. No rush for that feeling.

My support was the window on the airplane flight home. I leaned in, head down, and tried the quiet cry. I guess that didn’t work, since the flight attendant came over and asked, “Are you alright? Can I get you something?”

Home to the emptiness, I felt the transition journey begin. My role would never be the same. She would be different and so would I. I just didn’t know what the change would mean or bring.

Good news to you, Parents coming back home, I love the parts of myself that I found like my writer, photographer, organic gardener, traveler, speaker, and more spontaneous doer. At first, I went into the being state, the tears on and off, the discomfort of not knowing what’ s next for me, the awkwardness of calling, texting or not calling and texting her, and the complexity of emotions of her coming back home and leaving, again. The empty nest is a grieving for the role you played as parent. You no longer manage, you mentor, you don’t lead, you listen. Still you are motivated to be a great role model for your children and no matter what, keep the love growing.

Helps to remind yourself to lower your expectations of what they should be doing and not doing. Helps to practice focusing back on yourself. Helps to be compassionate with you now, just as you have been with them. You have never been at this stage of your life. Be sweet to you.

I love my relationship with my daughter who is more and more grown up. She teaches me, just as she did when she was the little sweet pea calling to me from her crib, “Mom awake. Come get me. Mommy. Come get me.” Lucky me, her first words were, “OH WOW.” She was nine months and she still says, OH WOW, as do I.

You won’t forget these changing times. It is an ongoing healing to share your stories with someone..good ones, foolish ones, and ones in tears.

I look forward to hearing them.

Take good care,
Natalie

Natalie Caine — Empty Nest
Founder of Empty Nest Support Services

Natalie Caine is the founder of Empty Nest Support Services. When her daughter was a senior in high school, she realized that as a soon-to-be “empty nester,” she would be undergoing a major life shift. Not wanting to confront this transition alone nor have her many friends face this abyss without strong support, she created a support services group, which quickly grew into a new career and an exciting full-time business.

Natalie Caine is the founder of Empty Nest Support Services. When her daughter was a senior in high school, she realized that as a soon-to-be “empty nester,” she would be undergoing a major life shift. Not wanting to confront this transition alone nor have her many friends face this abyss without strong support, she created a support services group, which quickly grew into a new career and an exciting full-time business.