Monday, December 8, 2014

Empty Nest Syndrome II

So, yeah.

Empty Nest Syndrome II is my new invention. It is what I am calling the second phase of my child's journey into independence and adulthood.

I kind of set myself up for this by a) being a single parent and b) only having one child. If I had a partner with whom I had raised my daughter, I could lean on him for distraction, support, and sporadic fights about how I'm being too dramatic. Instead, I am both roles. If I had had another child, I could wholly devote my life to it and transfer any feelings of loss to that remaining child, smothering it with attention and extra time and excessive interest in its personal life thus relieving my first child of the brunt of my inexplicable feelings of loss and fuzzy boundaries.

Furthermore, I have a clearly dysfunctional relationship with my only child daughter. We talk when things get tough. I don't try to control her very much because she makes good choices and I trust her to continue to do so 98% of the time. We rarely disagree, and therefore we rarely fight. If we do disagree, we have a discussion about it. If we know that a discussion will lead to a fight, we usually table the topic until our emotions have chilled out. When we do "fight" it is logical and respectful and mature. If necessary there are apologies. *sigh What is a mother to do?

I'm sorry. I left you hanging with "Wait what?" because, Empty Nest I.

THAT Empty Nest Syndrome is when your (only) child lives with (only) you her whole life, and then moves to college all of a sudden and you are left at home looking at the cats like "have you done your homework?" THAT Empty Nest Syndrome is the emotional equivalent of being plucked out of your busy, colorful life and dropped into...Outer Space. That's what they call the regular Empty Nest Syndrome. They say it isn't a real medical condition but that if it lasts more than a couple weeks to take a couple aspirin and call a psychiatrist. So, a year later I did. It helped. Until now.

Now I'm realizing that there is a next phase to this damn thing that isn't a medical condition. It happens when said kid has been at college for several years, making their own plans and decisions on a daily basis without consulting you, and then they continue to do it when they aren't at college. *screeching brakes "Wait what?"

Yes. Empty Nest Syndrome II. The moment you realize that your adult child is of legal age and can and will make plans and decisions without consulting you first. And, news flash - you still don't have that second parent or still-at-home kid with lots of attention being poured into its life. And the cats can't go on vacation with you. So, it's back to Outer Space for you!

Seriously, though. I have spent the past 2-3 years rediscovering myself, finding new interests, and letting my daughter be the adult I raised her to be. It is known that single child/single parent relationships are closer than most because the two forge their way in the world together. Together, we have been forging the past few years through the world apart - together. So yes, ENSI was difficult. But I got through it, as did she (I don't think they know it exists.) This part, though, this part is fuzzy. When does it become okay for me to say "I come first because I grew you" and when is that inappropriate? I feel like, as long as she calls our home her home away from college, and I'm paying her car and health insurance and cell phone bill and doing what it takes to get her through school, that the time that we usually spend together should be up for discussion before she starts making adult decisions all over the place. i.e. I still get to have input into non-college-time decisions. 

So. ENSII is all about that. Its about how... now that you have embraced your mostly very empty nest, and you and your adult child have begun refining your separate identities, you have to figure out how to share it with this new adult that you grew from egghood, and how to live together as separate adults. How much of their new adult life should you expect to share with them? What level of adult are they if they are still living at home? What are the rules? What are the boundaries? What is too much, and what is not enough? Why do I feel like I'm losing her all over again when I still get irritated that she hasn't cleaned her room, she still misses me and wants to spend time with me, and she still eventually comes home? I guess I just wait two weeks and if it isn't gone I'll take two aspirin and call a psychiatrist.

PS - I am NOT that mom who feels it necessary to insist my adult child move out of the house. As long as we can maintain a peaceful coexistence, I would rather her enjoy what is left of her childhood plus have a safe place to come home to, until she is too grown up even to do that (spoiler alert: ENSIII) 

Growing up is hard. Even at my age.

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