My oldest leaves for college in about six weeks. To say the last few months haven’t been without a multitude of aggravations, unwarranted aggressions, flaring tempers, and angry outbursts would be a big, fat lie. Because they have. A lot.
I’ve been told this is a phenomena 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, WANTING OUR KIDS OUT OF THE NEST. Period. Ironically, it comes at the exact 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 leaving, and the bittersweet reality that is the fact 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 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 weeks of pregnancy. Let’s just say my home now, like the womb was back then, has become a hostile place, not just for the baby, but for mom too. Things are stretched to their limits (skin back then, patience now). Nobody is comfortable at all 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 nervous and excited and ready for him to arrive. It truly is the circle of life, except this time the monumental event that is about take place will be giving me more freedom, not less. It’s a good thing, right?
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 easier, 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, and 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 (just 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 the fact those exchanges are coming to an end. The elephant in the room is the fact 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.
Before he leaves, I’m going to make a more concerted effort of letting go and not getting angry 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. Staying up too late and sleeping all day? He will be creating his own schedule soon, not trying to fit into mine. Let it go. Losing keys, wallets, and phones? HIs safety net of lost articles will soon be gone. Let it go.
Hopefully, with a little grace and a whole lot of humility, our mutual stubbornness will be replaced with gratitude these last few weeks, and this soiled nest won’t be so much be an unwanted environment. Rather, 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 the heck out of here.
Photo credit: Chris Hunkeler
Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. She is on Facebook at 4BoysMother and on twitter at @melissarunsaway.