Monday, June 27, 2011

A Fraidy Cat Prepares for an Empty Nest

Don't let anybody kid you. The empty nest thing - you start prepping for it the day you let the first one check the mail or park the trash on the street. You don't successfully navigate that step till you cut the rope you tied around the child's waist to tether him/her to the front door. 

Depending on who you are, it's all uphill from there. Meaning as a parent you spend most of your life walking uphill both ways while barefoot in the snow. (Southern speak dictionary available upon request.)

I know I'm a different breed. I figure it is my job on this earth to set my kids free to live bigger and broader than I was allowed to live at their ages.  That process started the 1st day of Son #1's K5 experience.

At the time, I had taken a solemn oath that I would NEVER (*interject sniff of superiority*) become one of those weird homeschooling moms that wore Birkenstocks with denim skirts, used homemade deodorant, and ate only homegrown organic vegan.

The collective K5 mom roar began in early July. Moms anticipated the dreaded first day. Most pictured a day of tears, fears, and jarring encounters as arms were pried lose from waistlines. Those were the mental imagines of  principals ushering moms out of Muffins for Moms while insisting the event did not last till the dismissal bell at 2:30p.

I always wondered if my little clutch of friends eyed me suspiciously because I was eerily quiet during these pre-game sniff-fests. My future looked rosy. 

Instead of fears and tears, I anticipated hours at the gym followed by a few chores to justify my husband paying me to be a stay at home mom. I figured I'd followed up with some well deserved bon-bons and a book or talk show. The only thing I saw myself missing was a pool complete with cabana boys!

When the day came,  I tried not to dance as I took the obligatory 1st day of K5 picture. His K5 teacher was a dream. The classroom was awash in fairy tale themed props complete with a floor to ceiling beanstalk and Jack's leg dangling from the ceiling.

Courtesy M. Horrocks
I worshiped the ground that woman walked on. Even still, I hugged my brave fella goodbye, wished him a good day, and turned on my heel before he could see any glimmer of doubt on my face about what I was getting us into.

I figured I could do one of two things. I could set that kid free to live with my confidence, or I could forever tether him to my front door with my doubt.

Homeschool friends know how to Par-tay! 
I never saw it coming. I denied I'd ever do it. No one was more shocked than me when we began homeschooling mid-way through first grade. I have yet to wear Birkenstocks, have been told by really sweet friends to lose the denim skirt, and have never used homemade deodorant.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should report that I am moving my family toward a real food diet and have even flirted with the idea of paleo. Even tho' we came home to school, I never stopped seeing my role as that of facilitator toward the front door and right on out into the big wide world.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Over the years, there have been plenty of crossroads complete with gut-busting choices. One choice would have kept my child cloistered and tethered to the front doorknob of our home. The other would set him free to fly.

Despite having been told my sons have learning issues which would affect social interactions, I continued to look for ways to equip them to live larger than I was encouraged to live and to live more successfully than the doctors who evaluated them predicted.

I agonized when the church van pulled away to take son #1 on his 1st and 2nd Middle School ski trips. 

I was an old hand at how hard it was to set him free to fly when he went on a High School summer mission trip to inner city Atlanta. It was, however, still no easier when he spent a week in his mid-teens doing inner city housing rehab in coastal South Carolina.

I got really good at one part of the process, I think. I got really good at NEVER letting him see me flinch. We always reminded him we were as close as the phone if anything or anybody seemed amiss. 

Other than that, we never hesitated until after the wheels had turned enough revolutions to have him safely out of sight. Then, my heart sighed as I wondered, “What have I DONE?”

Yep. Yep. Ask me about socialization. 
We must have done something right because this kid with all the 'social' complications of his LD entertained a group of almost eighty at his 17th birthday party. Take that all you doctors that told us how life was supposed to be for a kid with his diagnosis.

 He graciously extended the invites to his friends and their families. Homeschooled kids don't get the memo that they must only invite kids their own ages to big events in their lives. I present the pictures as exhibit #1 if ever unknowing prey wanders into my 'but what does a homeschooler do about socilization' trap?

A year later, Son #1 surpassed his fraidy cat mom. A passport took him on his first airplane flight all the way to China and back. I'm clearly allergic to post 9/11 flying and even more clearly allergic to passports. Therefore, you know I was gratified that I had given this son of a fraidy cat wings to fly - literally.

Courtesy H. Wills - 2011
Two years later, he accepted a consulting job in Australia and flew solo to a country where his only contacts, apart from business, were blog friends who lived a four hour flight from Brisbane. He celebrated his 21st birthday in the company of strangers a week after he arrived.

As I write this post, my head is full of those memories tonight because we put Son #2 on this 1st bus to camp today. He's had a lot more to deal with in regard to bullies than his older brother did. So, he left us with emotions that are as raw as sunburned skin.

Prayers, Tears, and Fears for Parents in a Fraidy Cat World
We are hoping he has a week of respite away from his tormentors. We are hoping the week will refresh him socially and spiritually. The camp staff has assured us they are on top of it. We are giving them a chance to put their actions where their words are.

The jury is out as I wonder yet again, "What have we done?"

And me? Today I did what I always have done. I hugged him long and strong. I told him to go make me proud. I affirmed the incredible chance he had to go where he was going. I reminded him we were as close as a phone call if anyone or thing seemed amiss.

I blinked . . . 
Then, I pointed him toward the door and watched as he walked to the car with his Dad and world traveling brother.  My men going off to face the world as a team.

I'm a fraidy cat. I don't fly. My kids? One day...they will soar right out of my nest and into the world I tried my best to prepare them for. And then, I'm going to go sit by a pool, eat bon-bons, and watch the cabana boys. Yea...that's my story. And, I'm sticking to it.

. . . and they were grown. 
Come back tomorrow and bring a friend? I think I can face Part 6 of my story as I write my way back to God. Thanks for your patience as I grope my way in the dark. I'm not nearly as a-skeert as I was now that I know I'm not alone. I see your clicks on my page and I hear you say,  "Go, Fraidy Cat, go!" So, if anyone asks, remember to tell them: Fraidy cats rule!

To read more about my parenting and homeschooling adventures, you might enjoy:

Fraidy Cat Parenting in a Fraidy Cat World

Mamma, Don't Pray

The Gentle Art of Kamikaze Parenting

Psalm 112: 1,2 (Amplified Bible)

Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who fears (reveres and worships) the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. His [spiritual] offspring shall be mighty upon earth; the generation of the upright shall be blessed.


  1. I was going to be a smart alec and make a comment like...."I hope you were using some deodorant if you weren't using homemade." but I don't want to be accused of being a meany! LOL

    Your boys are blossoming well in your love and care!! Go Carol Anne!!

  2. From your lips to God's ears,Susan. I think it is in spite of me and not because of me! They regularly make me look like a better parent than I am --even my younger one as he traverses these 'rocker dude' days-- which I humbly admit on a regular basis!

  3. I would just like to point out that the last denim skirt I owned was a maternity skirt that I wore while carrying my first child, and I have NEVER owned a pair of birkenstocks!! Oh, and homemade deodorant? I wouldn't even know where to start!! :)) I LOVE that your son had 80 people at his birthday celebration! The last birthday celebration we had was for our daughter Alex, who turned 11 last March. There were 35 people there, ranging in age from 8 to 64! :)) Socialization indeed! :))

  4. Well, uh, Vicki...just between you and me, I sort a made up the homemade D.o. part...but I like to think of it as poetic/humorous license!