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Human Resources

Empty Nest? Open Field?

In a personal essay (My Take, 10/1/16, Seattle Times) titled The Emotional Tug When Children Leave for College, David Takami writes:


      …both boys, when they reached 18, were absolutely ready to Earlier this month, I dropped off our younger son in New York City to begin his freshman year at New York University. My older son had already started his junior year at Babson College near Boston. And with that, both our children had fledged and left our Seattle-area home.

      …we have been surprised that our initial reaction (to “How does it feel?”) is not predominantly sadness or abandonment, as is often implied in the asking. We’re not happy they’re gone, but we are relieved and grateful that they are in good schools and that they seem well prepared for this next step. Family life, we’re confident, will continue during school breaks, holidays, and our visits to them.

      Yet both boys, when they reached 18, were absolutely ready to leave home – and they let us know in various ways. This was the “soiling of the next” we’d heard about from other parents. Starting in their midteens, each of the boys began separating themselves from us, one through persistent, sophisticated arguing and the other through stony silence and closed doors.  (Of course they were communicating with the outside world on a frequent and prolific basis through Snapchat, Twitter, and other social media beyond our reach and understanding.)

      A breakdown of house rules ensued. It was increasingly hard to get them to pick up their rooms, which looked recently bombed and pillaged, or clean the car they had littered with Gatorade bottles and fast-food detritus, or do other household chores. We were reading our limit of cajoling, nagging and threatening.

      …we are ready for our next phase. While we enjoyed almost every hour of youth sports from T-ball to high-school track and soccer, we are also eager to revive our weekends to spend the time as we choose. Think of that! Yes, we will miss them terribly. But a dear friend of ours suggested another outlook that resonated with us. Think of it not as an empty nest, she said, but an open field…we started a list of everything we wanted to do (house and yard work didn’t count). Hikes. Book readings. Dinner parties. Trips to wineries. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

      The field outside our home is wide open, and it is beckoning.


I can relate to having an empty nest; our three children have graduated from college. We, too, didn’t miss a baseball/softball game, 4-H event, or horse show. They take for granted their childhood home, our home, coming and going at their convenience. I am trying hard not to allow work (both paid and volunteer) take the place of those family times.  Yep. I can see the open field is filled with many great things; I struggle sometimes to hear its voice.


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