I’m Such a Smart Empty-Nester

I’m such a smart empty-nester!

Want me to tell you how much I know about empty nesting? Here’s how smart I am: I know absolutely nothing…nada…diddly. But the fact that I realize I know nothing about it makes me absolutely brilliant.

Remember when your kids were toddlers? You had survived the whole newborn and infancy thing, and so you felt pretty confident going into toddlerhood? And then, BAM…your kid knocked you right back into reality with a tantrum…or climbing up the stairs on the outside of the rail (it happened)…or pushed another kid down…or hurled a plate of food across the room.

Well, empty-nesting is a lot like that. Just when you move your kid into his/her new dorm or apartment, you think, “Wow! I got this! I am a pro! My kid is officially launched into adulthood, and my life is my own!”

Wrong…wrong…wrong.

What they forgot to tell you when you brought that child into the world is that your life will never be your own…never, ever again.

My husband and I were stupid enough to think we would get our daughter moved into college, and everything would be rainbows and confetti afterward. Nope. We could not have been more wrong. Soon after we dropped her off, she developed an infection where she had a heel blister, and because the doctor was afraid it would move into her Achilles’ tendon, she had to get an antibiotic injection, take oral antibiotics, and use a topical gel. Crisis averted. That was our first gut punch letting us know how stupid we are.

Soon thereafter, we went on vacation to the Bahamas thinking everything was great. We came home, and I had gallbladder surgery. I took a week to recover, and then, I went on a cruise with a friend from my college days. We had a great time. And then…the last night of the cruise, I received a call that our daughter had been in a car accident. Everything ended up being fine, but wow! Things were not going as expected.

That was just last weekend.

My husband and I had planned to leave this Tuesday to go to the Bahamas again but canceled the trip when we received a call that the resort restaurants were closed till November 1. At first, I was annoyed, but then it looked like Hurricane Fiona was going to move through the Bahamas this upcoming week, and I was glad we had canceled.

Here is the thing: we thought empty-nesting would be a walk in the park, but every plan we have made has been changed somewhere along the way. So I finally realized something: the only constant is change.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible. That vacation you have planned? It might not happen, and if it does, you might have to come home early to help your newly launched child with a problem. Sleeping well at night? Don’t expect it to last. You’re likely to get at least one jarring late night call. Think you know where your college-age kid is all the time? Bahahahahaha…think again.

Here is how you will know you are a smart empty nester…

You will know you are a smart empty-nester when you realize and can admit to all your friends that you have no idea what you are doing and you likely won’t ever know. If we could have just admitted this freely when our kids were toddlers, we would be a lot better off. If I could have just said all along that I am learning on the job (as a parent), and I am an absolute novice, I would have looked like the smartest parent in the history of the world.

As it is, I had to learn that I don’t know a damn thing.

If you’re going to be an empty-nester soon, hold onto your hat. Enjoy the ride, because you will never know what is around the corner…just like when your kids were infants, toddlers, elementary school age, middle schoolers, and high school students. Admit it. You were and still are as clueless as I am.

The sooner you can admit it, the smarter you are.

Mom, We’ve Been in an Accident

“Mom, we’ve been in an accident.”

Those are words we don’t want to hear…ever.

Recently, the night before I was getting off a Caribbean cruise to return home to Charlotte, I received a phone call from my daughter saying those words. The next words were “I’m ok, and [driver friend] is OK, but [college friend] might be a little hurt.” My head started to spin. I just sent my daughter off to college a little over a month ago. She had called me in the middle of the cruise and asked me to get airline tickets for her and a friend to come to Charlotte over the weekend, so I did. And ten minutes after they landed, they were involved in an auto accident. Another friend from high school was driving.

I was happy to hear that two of the three were OK, but I was worried about the third.

My daughter calmly told me the people from Life360, a phone app, had called her immediately to tell her they detected she had been involved in a crash, and the police had been dispatched to the scene. To learn more about Life360, click here. I highly recommend it. Our daughter said the person at Life360 asked if they needed medics, and she asked them to send them, because one friend might be injured. Our daughter seemed fine when I was talking with her, but I could hear her friend from college crying in the background. It was breaking my heart. And to top it off, my husband was at the beach in another state with a friend, and I didn’t have real phone service, so I was having to make all calls using FaceTime and WhatsApp through Wifi…spotty at best. I asked my daughter, “Do you want me to call a mom to be with y’all?” She immediately answered, “Yes.” One name came to mind. I called her via FaceTime audio, and she was on it. As soon as I told her the situation…I was out of the country, and my daughter had been in an accident…she said, “I have my keys in my hand and I’m on my way.” Fortunately, she lives near where the girls were, so she could get there quickly.

I then called the college friend’s mom and explained to her that the EMTs were checking her daughter’s elbow and head, and the girls were in good hands. Ultimately, the EMTs decided the girls could go on to our house. I explained to her that my friend would be arriving soon to wait with them and take them home. Once there, my neighbors would check on them right away and periodically till I could get home the next day. Fortunately, my very calm, very responsible 25-yr-old nephew and his girlfriend were in town for a concert, so they would be at our house all night, and I would be arriving the next day. My daughter could call any of our neighbors at any time for anything. And I was explaining all this through FaceTime that was spotty, but it got the job done.

Thank the Lord.

After I had contacted everyone I knew to contact, I could sit down and think. I called my husband once I knew everything was handled and told him the news. I started with, “She is OK, but Milly has been in an accident.” I hung up the phone and finished packing. But honestly, I didn’t sleep that night. We were scheduled to arrive in Miami at 7:00am, and my flight home was scheduled for 3:15pm…a long wait. When I arrived at the airport at about 10:00, I went straight to check-in and asked if I could be moved to an earlier flight. Lucky me, there was one seat left. The flight wouldn’t leave till 1:25pm, so I went to the American Airlines Admirals Club to wait it out and distract myself with college football. And of course, while I was there, I called my nephew to get updates on the girls…hoping they were still sleeping…and they were. I spoke again with the mother of my daughter’s college friend, knowing I would want as much information as possible if I were in her shoes. She said she really wished her daughter would wake up, so I called my nephew and asked him to go in to wake them and ask the friend to call her mom.

When I arrived home, I could finally breathe. I hugged everyone and looked over the girls, who appeared fine. Their smiling faces told me they were feeling well. My nephew and his girlfriend left for the concert soon after I got home, and the girls asked me to drop them at a favorite restaurant in Charlotte’s South End…just like old times.

And I was thrilled that something seemed normal. Normal is good.

It was the first time I had relaxed since the “Mom, we’ve been in an accident” phone call. After dropping them off, I rushed home and took a shower. My nephew and the girlfriend came home from the concert, and I cooked them a late night breakfast before going to pick up the girls at a friend’s house at about 1:00am…just like old times. And after we got home, I crashed right to bed and slept better than I’ve slept in a long time.

I can tell you this: you do not want to receive a call from your child saying he/she has been in a car accident. I felt helpless. But I heard from all sources, including both friends who were in the accident with her, that my daughter was a champ through the whole thing. She kept the other girls calm and handled things with the police and medics. I am proud to hear that and happy to know she was able to help her friends.

I did sit down with the girls over breakfast and told them they should reflect back on what had happened and what they had learned from it. I said, “I’m sure you learned just how quickly your life can change. No one goes out expecting to get into a car accident, and it can absolutely change your life in seconds.” The driver of the car they were in was not at fault, but accidents happen. Thank God they were OK.

And I will tell you what all mothers know: they are always our babies. Their pain is our pain. And it’s a lot harder to deal with from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Sometimes we just need to put our eyes on them, and I was so glad I could do that fairly quickly.

They flew back last night and made it to their dorm without incident. I was able to sleep.

Normal is good…