As parents, it’s easy to become acclimated to chaos. Rather it’s the endless tenor of voices in the house, the limitless laundry and meals to prepare, or the cycle of places to take children for activities, the first dozen years keep parents so busy that they rarely recognize how fast the time is passing.
The pace of the first years, however, is nothing compared to the speed of the next set. From baby bottles to backpacks, almost suddenly, the next steps parents face are perhaps even more monumental. From high school parents, to empty nesters, the change is rather paramount.
While parents of toddlers dream of the successive milestone like the first tooth, the first word, and so many other wonderful milestones, they can barely comprehend how quickly those years will pass. Almost surreally, the mounds of toys and clutter begin to disappear. The once constant clatter of feet on the floor, evidences of doors not being shut firmly and refrigerators remaining open too long, as well as endless trips to the grocery story, begin to wane.
The few moments of peace and quiet that parents used to long for, arrive. The wish granted is, however, rather melancholy. After relishing in the quiet peace and euphoric control of the television and dramatically decreased hot water usage for a while, it becomes abundantly clear that these changes to the nest are, unlike the perpetual changes of raising children, a more permanent feature.
It takes an entirely new set of adaptations to learn to acclimate to this now foreign environment. However, over time, parents learn that phase two, too, has some exciting adventures. Seeing one’s children learn to adapt to an alternative environment in the workforce or the academic world where their own skills and prowess carry them forward, has many of its own rewards.
Ironically, it is during this age of youthful adulthood when parents often begin to appear much wiser to their children than formerly imagined. Regular phone calls are initiated not to explain how they’ll be home later than expected, but rather to ask how to do any myriad of tasks which were magically done for them earlier. Parents are asked for recipes, strategies, financial insight, medical remedies, and even the occasional shoulder to lean on. It is these times that parents come to realize that all the lost hours of sleep and emptied bank accounts, grey hair and wrinkles, were foundational steps, designed to ultimately launch their baby birds from the nest.
The new view of one’s children taking their first steps in the adult world can, at times, be just as frightening as watching those first baby steps. However, parents can rest assured that most of the sage wisdom that their children appeared not to hear all those years along the way often reflects back in the decisions they make and the steps they take.
In the words of Mr. Bird from P.D. Eastman’s “The Best Nest,” “I love my house; I love my nest. In all the world, my nest is best.” Learning to love each phase of the nest from the mess to the rest, makes parenting the best job of all.