I realized suddenly tonight after reading an email from an online friend and a serendipitous Facebook post, that Bill and I have suddenly become part of a select group of those parents who have an empty nest. And I’m more than just OK with that.

When typing “nest”, I kept typing “next”.  Unconsciously, I was saying something important. Empty nests aren’t bad; they’re what’s next; they’re the progression of life.  Baby birds don’t stay in the nest. They’re nurtured there, fed there, and grow there.  But when they reach a certain point, they’re ready to go out and fly on their own and if they don’t leave, one of the parent birds pushes them out! It’s time. It’s what’s next, and the empty nest, instead of being a symbol of loss, represents the rightness of the next step in the life of a growing bird or, in the case of our family, the second growing young woman, ready to try her wings.

Our older daughter left the nest some years ago for her “next”. Now it’s time for our second daughter to do the same. She’ll come back to our nest sometimes (and she’ll always be part of our family, unlike birds), but she’s flying more and more on her own, as she should.

Of course in the case of humans, that doesn’t mean we as parents will abandon her. We’ll keep in contact, have holidays, some weekends and summers together, just as we do with our older daughter (although in the latter case, in much lesser amounts due to work, MBA classes and boyfriend) and probably still give her advice, wanted or un. We’ll enjoy seeing this daughter grow into a talented, wonderful woman just as we did her sister. We may get a little misty-eyed occasionally and sentimental while looking at old picture, videos or DVD’s (and we’ll laugh a lot at them also) but at the same time, we’ll celebrate the rightness of the growth and the beauty of the empty next nest.

I came across the bit of verse while reading Now May You Weep, by Deborah Crombie, part of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series I so enjoy, and thought it beautifully puts into words how looking back at life can sometimes make you feel slightly sad while still acknowledging  the beauty and rightness of it.

And I remember home and the old time,
The winding river, the white morning rime,
The autumn robin by the riverside,
That pipes in the grey eve.

–Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Family”

Or, to mix metaphors, as Psalm 127: 4 says:

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.

Older birds mugging for the camera

And my nest won’t be completely empty as I still have one big bird left with me!!

The old buzzards! 🙂

  1. Robin in New Jersey says:

    Janet, I love these pictures of your family. 🙂 You have done a wonderful job teaching and training and preparing your beautiful daughters for the world. I know you and Bill will fill that “empty nest” with all kinds of worthy pursuits.

  2. globalunison says:

    You have a beautiful family – your daughters are beautiful. I know how your sentiments are bubbling up in this post and I believe that is so natural for mothers, isn’t it??

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