FLYING THE COOP
When children were born, we imagined what they will be like when they grow up. What we didn't imagine was what we would be like when they do. Both my children have flown the coop in search of their own lives. I know it's good for them, but make no bones to admit that I didn't know, something awful was in the waiting for us. Children have finally (irrevocably) moved from home. We spent 23 years caring them and now we miss their presence in our everyday life. Those days of sitting around Dastarkhawn, couch potatoeing laptop/ mobile/ TV are now much emptier. ENS, the empty nest syndrome, is simply overpowering. Imagine how lonely this makes oldies like us to feel!
The past one month I have been busy… as bee, trekking along with my teenager ward, in the Indian plains, hot as hell. As the admission formalities were complete and the teenybopper has finally flown over her (Cuckoo’s) nest to join her new school, we, the fifty something ‘nest-feeders’ wake up to the stark realization that we have hurled ourselves into the club of wretched ‘Empty Nesters’. The ubiquitous ‘Empty Nesters’… their number growing at arithmetic progression… populate our relation, friend circle, workplaces, neighbourhood, cities and towns. Empty Nest Syndrome’, as I wrote earlier in one of my write ups, is a kind of stark reminder of our morality and a growing menace in our society. Each ‘empty nester’ has his pathetic tale of woes. The nightmarish experiences of the ‘nest emptying’ happening to me & wife, constitute the hardest chapter of our life. The (farfetched) feelings of being-able-to-be-with-children on a regular basis and the nostalgia of when-we-were-all-together are torturous. We know they’re the things of past, irretrievable.
For us the recent goodbye of the child 2 has turned out to be extremely difficult. When my son left home 6 years back the pre-teen daughter compensated his absence by creating a niche, giving us the best possible company. As she also has flown off the nest, it has been as if our “new life” felt much like when we were newlyweds without children. My child 2 was also leaving home, headed into the unknown. Thoughts would race through heads. Did I prepare her for the world? Will she be successful in life? A terrible feeling of impending doom would linger and tug at my heartstrings. Tears initially streamed down all along, especially when I left her at her new school. Going into home when she was gone was something horrible. Without much purpose of life now, beautiful memories of childbirth, the sounds of the pitter patter of the little feet running against the hardcore floors, hoo-ha caused during celebrations of id and birthdays, recitals of songs and school lessons, reprimands, rebuttals, refusals, defiance, cries and shrieks, and all that jazz would flash through mind.
You are home and look around and everything feels surreal. The house is a story of your life. The pictures hanging on the walls tell you of the years spent under one roof together. The pictures bring a smile to your face and give you an opportunity to relieve those happy moments once more. You walk down the room to where your child spent the last 17 years. All you can see in your mind are haunting images of your child at various stages in his/her life…precious memories that only you and you alone possess. Tears stream down your face and you sob. You walk into the room and pick up that old raggedy teddy bear and hold it so close to your heart that it is as though you are holding that beautiful baby once again. Your mobile, laptop or some costly electronic gizmo suddenly refuses to work. In the specter of chaos you miss your teenager who would set it in order. Reality sets in and you accept the fact that one of the most wonderful and fulfilling stages of your life has come to end.
For us parents, looking at a house that was once filled with noise and laughter, and then realizing it is gone quiet, is depressing. Lives that would revolve around children seem to be getting derailed after the children fly the nest. We may initially weep now and again, go into the absent child's bedroom and sit there for a while in an attempt to feel closer to him or her. When children were home, we had many things to do. For example, we would express our love daily. It now seems there is nothing to do. The proud builder that once-upon-a-time swaggered around the hustle and bustle of the nest is now left kind of spent, shocked and shattered with zero initiative and stamina to do clean ups or do ups.
The clan must carry on successfully. I for one have been, kind of the biggest nincompoops that lived on earth. Realizing my shortcomings, as a carrier of my clan I would always strive hard to equip my children with the skills to get on with their lives effectively (better than their father) and even let them fly off in their own way (not to return to live a woebegone life). Now I get to the question mark, should I really have allowed children to fly away. In the life of a bird the day comes sooner than the mother would probably care for, but it does happen, the ‘fleeting-from-the-nest’. The mother either nudges their young or they get curious and go it alone, their first flight. Soon, the nest is empty and it is now her lonely home. Baby birds spend such little time in their nests being nurtured: at least with respect to human babies.
The house is empty because that is what happens. It’s natural, and indeed a positive healthy development that when our child leaves home, we got to be sensitive to the fact that he/she is trying to take a big, significant step in life. This is a special time for our child. They may stretch their wings and learning to be independent for the first time. Our child is going through a big change in his life and may have fears and doubts while away from home. He will need our support, but will not want to feel overwhelmed by us. Successful survival in an ‘emptying nest’ means that our relationship with the brood flying the nest has to change.