"What_____ looks like" is a project with a group of a dozen local photographers. Each person will contribute their insight, talent and diversity by linking their blogs. We hope you enjoy this collaberation and find it inspiring!
What "Empty Nest" looks like is a journey from the birth of my first child and the lessons learned from my first 35mm camera, 30 years ago, to the present. So much has changed and I was clueless as to how much I would rely on these photos. They are my memories, my link and that which sustains me until the next time that I am together with my children.
There is a time in every parent's life when they think they can't possibly stretch themselves thin enough to get "it" all done. "It" can be joyful, exhausting, successful, disappointing, prideful, tense, tearful... the list is endless.
We juggle our time, patience, and physical endurance for the betterment of our children. Preparation for their happiness and success when they leave home is a major undertaking.
It is incredibly easy to go about our daily lives without record. It is our norm. Photos are the history of our life captured in a single moment, and these increase in personal value every year.
to look back upon: a father holding his first newborn child, finding a baby to Firsts are always specialkiss, discovery of a shadow, kite flying with a new daddy, that first shave. (Many of these are scanned 35mm pics from years ago.)
These moments are remembered, but it is the details that can be lost as time goes by: smells, surroundings, and how that relates to a time, financial, and familial periods in your life.
Time flies by. In the blink of an eye your newborn is a baby, then child, on a bus to school, high school graduate off to college, adult and possibly parent. Just making it through a day, week or season during this time is possibly the most we can focus on at certain points. We forget to keep a camera on our hip to capture those daily occurrences and changes of appearance and interest over time that we take for granted and forget.
Next comes those stressful moments when you appreciate all other times.
That is when I pull out my favorite photos to remind me of the person that is really inside this child/adult that I am not so fond of at the moment.
It is so hard to let them grow by experience. Set boundaries and don't waiver. Action and consequence is a most important teaching and learning tool. Tough love is gut wrenching, heart breaking and necessary at times. To let them fall until they decide they want to get up is unbelievably hard, as is refraining from telling them what they "need to do."
The glue that holds it all together is the verbal reminder- "I love you" at least once a day, even when they have morphed into some creature more horrifying than imaginable. If they feel they have nothing in their life, which can happen, they KNOW they have your love.
The empty nest is best maintained by remembering the good times!
Having the children away from home is different. Honestly, I was kind of looking forward to the peace and quiet, time to myself (what is that??), and having the house stay clean!
I get time alone with my husband and have fallen in love with him all over again. That is absolutely the biggest perk of all!
It gets loney and sad at times. Besides the photos, I find myself looking at the reminders of what they have left behind. These are things that were made by them, worked hard for or bought with a weeks worth of pay.
I have mementos scattered about the house. They take me back to a time and I remember their excitement, determination, pride or sadness.
Other reminders of their absence are just the changes around the house. Bedrooms don't necessarily ever get returned to sleep-able condition because of things coming and going between hurried trips home. BUT there are folded pool towels on the table instead of wet ones strung across things throughout the house. The games and musical instruments lie unattended. Bathrooms drawers aren't a conglomeration of items that have been scooped into them in an attempt to "put things away." There are no shoe piles by the door but there also are no cars parked in the drive. I have the poor pets all to myself and they miss the kids as much as I do.
There is nothing better than to see them again even if it means driving 13 hours! There are cars, music, tv, laughter, laundry, their friends and the stories that sometimes make my hair curl (I can't say much if I want them to confide in me again.) They ask advice from us, although we never knew anything a few years ago! They even help around the house!
Watching them leave is the hardest part of all. I thought it would get easier, but there is always a knot in my throat, a heaviness in my heart, and very often tears. I know they will be back, but sometimes it feels like forever.
And yet, again, the nest is empty.
There is nothing that can replace the presence, hugs, tears and love that I miss so dearly. I do understand that they can't call or come as often as I would like.
Harry Chapin has summed it up nicely in his song Cats in the Cradle.
Think forward. Enjoy the moment. Appreciate. Give love.
I hope that my book has not put you to sleep.
Please enjoy the talent of my fellow photographer, Victoria Kegg of Blue Daisy Art Photography. I know you will be very pleased with her beautiful work!