Last night, I popped into the grocery store to get a few things and absently reached for a bag of chocolate chips in the baking aisle, knowing my 18-year-old daughter loves to bake chocolate chip cookies. Suddenly, I remembered that she wasn’t home anymore. Just a few days ago, we helped her unpack her belongings in a dorm room in college to start her freshman year. In another state. Hot tears stung my eyes as I fought back a wave of grief and tried to hurry out of the store, avoiding the odd look from the check-out clerk.
But it is grief. When a child leaves home, it is an ending. The official end of childhood for my daughter and, for me, the end of day-to-day involvement in a life in which I have been the steady caretaker for 18 years.
Right now, less than a week after moving my daughter to her dorm, it feels like more loss than gain. Soon, I know I’ll adjust and I won’t have to keep the door closed to her room to avoid the heart-pangs that come when I see how empty it looks. I know that it will be thrilling to see my daughter mature into young adulthood. I’ve observed the process with my older two children. Before long, the transition will be more gain than loss, for all of us. But, for now, I’m still at that “loss” point. Mostly, I miss having my kids at home! And I can’t deny that part of this adustment is an uncomfortable awareness that my husband and I are growing older. Family dynamics shift around as my fourth-and-last-child-at-home expands into the empty spaces. I know that his high school years will fly by; he’s already taller than I am. Too soon, we will be unpacking his college dorm room. I will become an official member of The Empty Nest Society.
Andy Rooney says that life is like a roll of toilet paper, it goes faster and faster and faster. True, but not reassuring. When my first child was born, I felt as though I was directed onto a sidewalk escalator, one of those moving types like the ones at the airport. I haven’t been able to get off of it. Time keeps skimming forward, like it or not.
And right now, I really don’t like this system. I want a breather. I want to freeze-frame things for a little while. To stop and savor these days.
When I get to Heaven, I hope to have a little time alone with God to give Him a few suggestions, such as what on earth was He thinking when He established Time as a moving sidewalk escalator? I’m going to recommend that He makes Time a little more elastic: stretch-able during wonderfully happy moments, like Christmas morning or when a baby takes his first steps. Contract-able during less-than-wonderful moments, like having a root canal. Think He’ll buy it?
Yea, I sorta doubt it, too.