This Is What It Means When Your Teen is “Soiling The Nest”

My oldest leaves for college in about six weeks.

To say the last few months haven’t been without many aggravations, unwarranted aggressions, flaring tempers, and angry outbursts would be a big, fat lie because they have — a lot.

teen in hammock
My son leaves for college soon, and he’s making our time together unpleasant, possibly by design. (Twenty20 @9_fingers_)


I’ve been told this is a phenomenon known as “soiling the nest.”

It’s when we as mothers, perhaps out of utter exhaustion and perpetual impatience, have gotten to the point of, well, to put it bluntly, we want our kids out of the nest.


Ironically, it comes at the same time we also begin to dread the sad but inevitable fact our little birds are leaving.

We are left with a roller coaster of emotions, the ups and downs of loving and going, and the bittersweet reality that our once needy kid needs us less and less.

Mother nature has the answer (doesn’t she always), and it goes like this; if mother and child find themselves entangled in an argument after argument, it will lead to a slow disassociation from one another, thus making the eventual break off that much easier.

And can I tell you something?

She. Is. Right.

I can only compare it to the last couple of weeks of pregnancy.

Like the womb was back then, my home now has become a hostile place, not just for the baby but also for the mom. Things are stretched to their limits (skin back then, patience now).

Nobody is comfortable anymore; he has outgrown needing to live under constant supervision like he outgrew my uterus back then. I am currently nervous and excited and ready for him to leave when at one time, I was scared and excited and prepared for him to arrive.

It truly is the circle of life, except this time, the monumental event that is about to take place will be giving me more freedom, not less. It’s a good thing.

It’s also terrifying.

When I brought home my first baby, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m about to send that little boy away, and I have no idea how to do that either. And to top it all off, nature’s way of making it more accessible, of making the nest less and less appealing for both of us, is honestly brutal.

We have been in each other’s faces way too much. The ease of conversation we once had, of laughing and happily bantering back and forth, has been replaced with terse one-sentence statements like, “You know when you’re at college, you’re going to have to _______ for yourself (fill in the blank with anything I’ve ever done for him in the last 18 years).

Lying beneath every little exchange we have is that those exchanges are coming to an end.

The elephant in the room is that the elephant is not going to be in the room anymore. Or at the dinner table. Or in the backseat. Or on the couch.

And so it is soiling the nest of time we have left, and even though the disagreements are supposed to make his leaving easier, it is conversely making me sadder in many ways.

I’m going to make an effort to let go.

Before he leaves, I will make a more concerted effort to let go and not get angry with that which I will no longer be controlling, thus trying to create a tiny corner of peace in the nest that is plenty soiled.

That pile of dirty clothes on his floor we used to fight about? Next month they will no longer be on MY floor; they will be on his.

Let it go.

Are you staying up too late and sleeping all day?

He will be creating his schedule soon, not trying to fit into mine.

Let it go.

Are we losing keys, wallets, and phones?

His safety net of lost articles will soon be gone.

Let it go.

Hopefully, with a bit of grace and a lot of humility, our mutual stubbornness will be replaced with gratitude these last few weeks, and this filthy nest won’t be so much an unwanted environment.

Instead, it will just be a metaphor for a home he has naturally, thankfully, and quite frankly, outgrown.

I won’t worry about a kid who is more than ready to get out of my nest, no matter how we’ve gotten to this point of him wanting to make a fast exit. I’m just happy he’s got the wings to fly out of here.

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About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

Read more posts by Melissa

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