EMPTY NEST SYNDROME REDUX
By Peggy Kiefer
We all hear about parents suffering from “empty nest syndrome” when their children (especially the first child) go off to college. But how about the grandparents of that child? We are the forgotten people. And, we certainly have our own strain of empty nest syndrome.
Having just seen my oldest granddaughter (and oldest grandchild) go off to college almost 3,000 miles away from home, and talking to other grandparents who have tearfully seen their precious grandchildren, who couldn’t possibly be that old, move out of their rooms, this is a subject close to my heart.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that that sweet little baby entered the world red-faced and screaming? How could they be 17 or 18 years old and leaving for a new adventure and a new life?
We suffered through the infant stage along with the tired mom and dad and tried to spell them on occasion so they could get some sleep. We watched as the tantrums and “no” stage began at about age two and tried to keep our mouths shut about how to handle that particular situation.
Then it was time for kindergarten. How could that be? How did five years go by so fast? We oohed and aahed over the plaster of Paris handprints that came home at Christmas. We listened attentively as “Eency Weency Spider” was sung for the tenth time. We read “Good Night Moon” a hundred times — at least it seemed like a hundred times.
Elementary school was full of car pools to soccer practice, music lessons, horseback riding lessons and math tutoring since none of us were very good in math. We grandparents were available to help with baby-sitting and school pick-ups. And of course, again we tried to keep our opinions on child raising to ourselves. We cooked endless spaghetti (or as they called them pasgetti) dinners and made dozens of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Those years went by in a flash.
Then we came to not so much fun middle school years. Our precious grandchild started becoming very knowledgeable about everything and weren’t quite so happy to have grandma and grandpa (or Mimi and Gramps, as we were called) pick them up at school. I remember dropping them off a block away from school, as it was not “cool” to have parents or grandparents drop them off. The hormones started surging during these years and we were subjected to bouts of crying, pouting and stamping feet. But through it all, we loved them.
Ah, high school, and the worries about what to wear, will I be invited to the prom, what friends will I bond with, how can I possibly finish all this homework and get to track practice, band practice, choir practice, etc. Of course, half way through high school they started to drive. Now, if that wasn’t one of the most hair-raising situations we went through, it was certainly close. Riding with the budding driver the first couple of times it was really hard to keep one’s mouth shut about how fast they were driving, even if it was only 35 miles per hour. Why did they wait so long to stop at the red light? And weren’t they driving awfully close to that car in front of us? But we gritted our teeth and still loved them.
Now, how we wish we could re-live some (you notice I didn’t say all) of those years. When we look at that now-clean bedroom that once was laden with clothes every place but in the closet and the dresser drawers, we feel very nostalgic.
We are happy they are so grown up that they love their chosen college, but couldn’t they have picked one closer to home? We worry whether they are eating right, getting enough sleep, making it to class on time, making friends — the same things their parents are worrying about.
Deep down we know they will work things out for themselves without us there to pick them up every time they fall. We know they will have disappointments, broken romances, illnesses (minor, we hope) and some tears. But with any luck there will be more wonderful friends, great classes, fantastic experiences and lots of stories to tell when they come home for holidays.
But, of course, before that there is parents’ weekend, which of course will include grandparents! And there is also Skype, where we can see and talk to them, texting, which we have learned to do, and even phone calls once in while.
So, hang in there, grandma and grandpa, right along with mom and dad. Your “baby” will do just fine and will make you proud. And no matter what, we will continue to love and support that grandchild.