Empty Nester

This summer like every summer, we had a bird family move into the small, wooden, video-monitored birdhouse on our property. Small birds, like the Swedish talgoxe or the blåmes seem to like raising their families there. The video camera mounted inside this tiny home is connected by a long cable which hangs along various tree branches as it makes its way past our porch door to our wall mounted flat-screen TV and for about 5 weeks we can watch our little feathered family lay and hatch their eggs and raise their babies. We keep the TV turned on and its like having a moving Harry Potter-style black and white painting hanging on our living room wall.

In spring almost two years ago, my son bought his own apartment here in Stockholm. He and I had spent the fall and winter months looking at apartment listings and every Sunday we made our way to 3 different showings. He put offers on a few of the apartments but he knew his top limit of how much he could afford to spend and while he came close a few times, someone else always offered more. Until the last one, when his offer was accepted. I helped him to paint all the rooms. We spent a day at IKEA looking at and testing out furniture possibilities which he then ordered online and had delivered directly to his second floor apartment. We spent another week putting the furniture pieces together. By then, it was finally summer and his dad and I moved out to our summer house. Our son was busy at work in the city and just continued to live in our apartment. Time passed as it usually does – all too quickly. Fall and then winter and once again spring. In the meantime, his fully furnished apartment sat there, collecting dust while my son continued to live in the only home he has known, our apartment. People who knew he had bought an apartment would ask me how he liked living in his new place and I had to keep answering, “He hasn’t moved out yet.”

It became a running joke every time I met a friend… ‘Has he moved yet?’ they would ask. We just laughed.

But last summer, in the middle of July our boy moved into his new place…with our help. He took 2 weeks vacation, spending the first few days of it with us at the summer house helping us with stuff that was easier for a young flexible person to do. Then we all drove back to town. While I made dinner, Bevin took apart all his computer equipment and packed everything in a big moving box. All his clothes were stuffed into 2 suitcases. In the morning he wrapped his 3 computer screens carefully in soft towels and we loaded everything else into our car and drove away to his place. The new apartment isn’t far – on a neighboring island here in the city. You can practically see his building from the small Stockholm island which we live on. By 4 pm it was done – everything he needed had been transferred from the car, loaded into his elevator and placed in his new home. We got some takeout from a restaurant around the corner and had dinner at his dining table. When the food was finished and the table cleaned up, my husband and I said good-bye and left. The next day we drove back out to our summer house and resumed life just the two of us.

“So how do you feel now that he’s moved out?”

This is the question my friends have been asking ever since last July.
“Are you suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome?

I’m not sure.

The past two years our son has not spent much time out at our summer house so it felt normal for him to not be there with us after his move. But summer is long over, it’s winter now and we are living once again in the apartment in town. The last time we were here, Bevin lived here too. But even though he was living at home, he really wasn’t. He went to work all day, came home, had dinner with us and then went off into his room and basically ignored us the rest of the evening. But still…I was always aware of his presence.

But now he has moved out. He doesn’t come in to the kitchen to eat dinner with us anymore. His bedroom light is no longer on at 3 am on a Saturday night and I don’t hear him talking online to his friends any more. He is not here to download a TV show for me and he can’t help me fix something that isn’t working on my computer.
But when I get out of the shower I don’t have to remember to put on my bathrobe. If my hubby and I have a loud disagreement about something I don’t have to worry that I am contributing to my son’s future trip to the shrink. And when we make up again I don’t have to worry if we are making too much noise. I don’t have to make so much food for dinner and if we want we can eat dinner in front of the TV. My husband and I knew each other for 10 years before we had our son. We had a life together as a couple. We survived parenthood and are a couple once again. It feels like we are going back to being what we were before…just moving slower with more aches and pains than we did 30 years ago.

Last summer, my husband set up a GoPro camera to watch the entrance to our birdhouse. The camera in the birdhouse kept tabs on what went on inside. Six eggs were laid-five hatched. Three of the 5 hatchlings never made it to the feathered stage. We could watch the last two remaining babies developing real wing feathers. Often, while waiting for mom and pop to bring them food, they would compete for space to stand up and practice flapping their wings like crazy. They were looking more and more like their parents and seemed eager to try to see what was outside their door. My husband wanted to capture their first steps away from home. He set up the camera just in time to catch them as they took their first flight.

My son no longer lives with us but he doesn’t live that far away. We text with him on WhatsApp and sometimes even talk on the phone. Sometimes he sends us pictures of what he made for dinner and he likes seeing the photos of the cats that we send him. He wants a cat of his own soon. He is always willing to come over if I offer him a home-cooked meal and leftovers to bring back to his apartment. He taught me how to download my own movies. And when he comes for dinner he is always willing to get out the ladder to change light bulbs and even to help me with computer issues.

I don’t feel like I am an empty-nester but rather that the number of nests my family lives in has increased and all of them are filled with love.

I do admit though that sometimes late at night, when I pass his old room, I expect to see the light on and am a tiny bit surprised to see it dark. 

2 Responses to “Empty Nester”

  • Sue Cohen Says:

    “I don’t feel like I am an empty-nester but rather that the number of nests my family lives in has increased and all of them are filled with love.”

    Beautifully written–conclusion is you’re a multi-nester!

  • Joel Klein Says:

    I would also join in saying that this is beautifully written. Your depiction of the slow process of letting go between child and parents should be normative. And if he is working, cooking himself, socializing digitally with friends half the night, and visits you regularly, then You and Håkan have definitely done a good job. Mazel Tov !

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