Contest RecapMidlife Collage sponsors a weekly contest of midlife short stories. U.S. citizens and legal residents age 40 and older may enter. The Editor selects five stories for publication on our website each week. Readers leave comments and Facebook thumbs-up likes urging the panel of Judges to choose a contest winner. Readers also send the Judges their opinions of the best story on our Closing Arguments page. The contest period is Monday through Sunday noon PT. The first-place story enters the Winner’s Circle and receives a cash prize of $50. Winners of a $50 cash prize are eliglble for a $100 contest, which we run quarterly. See the Submissions Page for the Contest Rules for details. ANYONE, worldwide, age 18 or older can comment on the stories in a contest.
“It will be hard watching her get on that bus for the first time,” one of my neighbors confided last week. “She’s got her new supplies, a Barbie book bag, and the cutest new dress and she’s so excited. I’m the one who isn’t ready to let go.”
My neighbor’s firstborn starts kindergarten this week, but her sentiments echo those of older parents whose kids are college freshmen. We’re struggling to let go too, having delivered our eager sons and daughters to institutions of higher learning. By now, they’ve unpacked crates of midnight snacks and taped posters onto their dormitory walls.
Those kids were in kindergarten 100 years ago. Or was it only yesterday? Today, a few of their parents suddenly bear the dubious title of “empty nester.”
I’m writing this piece after depositing my son Nate on the ivy-covered campus of Notre Dame, where everyone did their best to make me feel better about leaving him. There were poignant speeches about the need to give our children “roots and wings.” There were student mixers, campus tours, impromptu glee-club concerts, and even a riveting sendoff for tearful parents, accompanied by the marching band.
That was the easy part.
As I told my husband on the long drive home, the biggest challenge, at least for me, will follow in the quiet weeks ahead. While I am concerned about how our son will handle such a vast banquet of opportunity, I believe his time away at college will ultimately mold him into a person of good character. A person who does his own laundry.
Meanwhile, I have to figure out how to get comfortable in our empty nest. I honestly don’t want to end up like the depressed mother I read about who found comfort watching Mister Rogers reruns.
After eighteen years of bending my journalism career around home and family, I’m just a little uneasy. While I’ve always thought of myself as a working mom, the emphasis was usually on “mom” and not on “working.” Like everyone else who semi-retires from a job, I can’t help but wonder: Who the heck am I, now that my role has changed?
A work-at-home columnist, I can’t drive off to an office each morning and bury this question under a familiar stack of paperwork. And I can’t hash it out with coworkers at break time. I must shamble around my oddly clean and quiet house, alone with my coffee mug and my deadlines, and confront my identity crisis head on.
Sending a child to college can feel more like launching him to Jupiter. As I remind my fellow empty nesters, it helps to stay connected to your community. It’s the perfect time to rediscover a favorite sport, pick up a new craft, get reacquainted with your spouse, or adopt an abandoned retriever from the local animal shelter.
It also helps to hear a voice on the phone saying, “Hey, Mom, I really like it here. It’s going to be a great year! And I need another check for textbooks.”