REFILLING THE EMPTY NEST
The empty nest is often spoken about as a sad and lonely time. The kids leave and take all the life and interest and excitement with them. There's no-one left who needs looking after, nobody coming and going, no strangers wandering through the house, nothing new and nothing out of the ordinary any more. It can all be so silent and sedate and fairly boring if you let it.
The other side of the empty nest is watching it fill up and empty again on a regular basis. For us, living in the country while our kids live in the city, it means we get visits every couple of months from one set or the other. They come down, move in (bringing their cats with them!) and settle back into family life for a few days. For others who live near their adult kids, it means weekend get togethers or weekly dinners where the house fills up again with laughter and memories.
We find the empty nest has been re-defined for our family. We have weeks at a stretch when there's just the two of us puddling around in the peace and quiet. We have our little routines, we go to work, we go out, we meet with friends, we come home to the quiet, we sleep without worrying about someone not being home at the expected time (I don't miss listening for a car to pull in, or hearing police sirens and worrying.)
The peace and quiet could get a bit monotonous, but every so often we have things shaken up for us. Last year my mum had her knee replaced and moved in with us for six weeks. It was like having a child around again - we fed her, talked to her, entertained her, listened to her complaints, made her do her exercises, and generally parented her until she was fit enough to to home again. We've also had friends stay occasionally when they've been down in the country and needed a bed for a night or two - things are certainly a lot more lively when that happens!
BO PEEP'S SHEEP
The best part of the empty nest is when the "children" come home for a visit. Because we're a distance away, it means they stay at least one night with us and we get to spend a chunk of quality time with them. They slip right back into being kids again - they're happy for someone else to cook for them, or take them out for coffee, or tidy up after them while they relax and enjoy home comforts without the chores. We love it when they're here - it's all the best parts of parenting without the responsibilities we used to have.
Our son and daughter-in-law are due to come down in a few weeks and they're bringing our little granddaughter down for the first time. This redefines the empty nest in a new and exciting way. We bought a highchair, we have baby toys, there'll be a cot and change table and all sorts of baby paraphernalia that our home hasn't seen for many, many years. It's the beginning of a whole new experience for our family.
COMING AND GOING
When you let your kids go without a struggle, they are happy to return for visits. They see themselves as separate entities who are free to come and go without any angst on their parents' behalf. It's a joy to see them come home and be settled in so quickly and easily, and for their spouses to feel part of the family too. It's lovely to have them and it's lovely to say goodbye and have peace descend again. Our empty nest isn't the cobwebbed pile of sticks you see in pictures, it is green and flourishing and feathered and ready at any time for whatever comes along. How fantastic is that?!