Readers: October has been a busy month here in the Restless Nest. This week, I re-broadcast a radio piece on one of my favorite subjects: breakfast.
“So, how’s the Empty Nest going for you?” the Other Mom asked me when we ran into each other in the park. Our children were the same ages: 18 and 21. The younger ones recently graduated from the same high school.
“It’s a little strange. But I guess I don’t miss getting up every day at 6:30.”
“Oh, that wasn’t an issue for me,” she responded. “My daughter was so self-sufficient.”
The implication being, of course, that our son was not: that it was his sorry lack of self-sufficiency that got my husband and me out of bed every morning.
But that wasn’t it at all, I wanted to explain, but didn’t.
I wanted to be there every day, just to say “Good-bye! Have a great day!” as Nick ran out the door. I wanted to know he had breakfast in his stomach and a sack lunch in his backpack. I knew he didn’t “need” us to get up. He probably didn’t even “want” us to get up. But isn’t one of the enduring themes of the teenage years that secret feeling that no one really cares? And when you’re having one of those dark adolescent moments, might it not help to be able to say to yourself, At least my parents get up every morning and pop my toast in for me? At least they say good-bye when I leave the house?
But I didn’t say any of that to the Other Mom. Especially since she was the same Other Mom who, the first time we ever chatted, scolded me for putting my daughter in an “elitist” gifted program, the same program she put her own daughter in a few years later.
Parents can be so judgmental. Myself included. In Seattle, we judge each other for, among other things, not offering the most perfectly healthy snacks or allowing violent video games or too much TV. Or any TV at all. But one of the wisest, most non-judgmental moms I know once told me, when Nick was still in middle school, that she would continue to make peanut butter toast in the mornings and pack sack lunches until her tall teenaged boys absolutely forbade it, because to be able to send them out into the day with good food gave her such comfort: the comfort of knowing that, whatever else might happen to them that morning or afternoon, breakfast and lunch were covered.
I can do that for Nick, I thought at the time. I will do that.
Her twin boys are 21 now, seniors in college, living off campus, cooking and eating with impressive self-sufficiency.
I don’t miss smearing peanut butter and jam on bread, bagging carrots, rummaging in the cupboards for trail mix or cookies. I do miss knowing that Nick has a brown bag full of healthy food in this pack, food he can “eat standing up,” his one specific lunch-packing request.
I don’t miss having to get up at 6:30.
I do miss the two-second, patiently tolerated goodbye kiss. That I do miss.
Our films, The Church on Dauphine Street, 30 Frames a Second: The WTO in Seattle and Quick Brown Fox: an Alzheimer’s Story are now available on Hulu, Amazon and other digital sites.
Radio lovers: you can hear the Restless Nest commentaries every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., Thursdays at 4:54 p.m. and Fridays at 4:55 p.m. on KBCS, streaming online at kbcs.fm and on the air at 91.3 in the Seattle area. Podcasts available.
Here’s nest artist Kim Groff-Harrington’s website.