Monday, July 26, 2010

Avoiding Empty Nest Syndrome

Mollie writes:

Empty Nest Syndrome is a phase of parenthood that we all face eventually.  It sneaks up on us like a stealth bomber; one day we are hauling kids to school, after-school activities, slumber parties and trips to the zoo and the next thing you know, they are graduating from high school and deciding what to do with the rest of their lives.

Peter and Roger were like that.  I got my first dose of empty nest when Peter got his driver's license.  It was such a shock to have a kid who could haul his own keester to Radio Shack!  But there he was, in MY car, leaving me stranded while he priced whatever teenage boys price at an electronics store.  And just about the time I had that under my belt, he graduated from high school and went off to college, leaving me with his 16 year old brother, who, amazingly, got HIS driver's license and also left me stranded while he went to school for theater practice.

What gives?

Well, if we are doing anything right, we are raising kids who are ready to face adult life when they turn 18.  Maybe they don't immediately get full-time jobs and their own place, but this threshold year is jarring for parents.

Millie addressed a portion of this in an earlier post when she discussed making adjustments upon a child turning 18.  Suddenly, we can't just go to the doctor's office, school office, or anywhere else, for that matter, for information about our adult child's health, academics or anything else.  They belong to the same social tier that we do, and enjoy all the privileges that we do, including privacy.  In addition, they can sign contracts,  go off to a school that does not offer a major in your child's field of study, and then join the military.  AND the list goes on.  All a mom can do is choose her words carefully and hope that the past 18 years haven't been in vain.

About the same time I was choosing my words, I felt a huge emptiness.  It's just like getting off an exciting roller-coaster ride.  When you get off, you can barely walk.  What does a person do when navigating one's way from one Theme Park (Main Street, USA) to another (Tomorrowland)?

I found several things helpful, but I want to focus on one today.  John and I were comfortable financially and the kids were both in school with their bills paid with scholarships or by us.  We'd paid off our house and were blissfully without mortgage payments,  and, since we'd never played the credit game, owed nada on credit cards and cars.  We were feeling blessed.

I had seen commercials on TV showing how different non-profits were fostering children in other countries and it piqued my interest.  I weighed information I was able to glean from the internet and chose Compassion International as a vehicle for my escape from ENS (Empty Nest Syndrome).

John and I 'adopted' a boy from Kenya who was five years old (he's twelve now).  We've followed his life, from losing his mother, his father's death, his life with his grandmother, and his love of soccer.  We send him encouraging letters and he sends letters back, his penmanship improving yearly as well as his use of the English language - a second language to his first language, Swahili.   I try to be careful with what I say to him, since having lost a mother AND a father, I figured he didn't need to be troubled over my MS.  I don't send him pictures of our cars, etc. I do send him pictures of our dogs and sons.   We try to assure him that school is the most important stage of his life.  And we cry over his losses.

Two years after we 'adopted' Abosalam, we adopted Johannis.  He lives in Ethiopia with his parents and is now 10.  He excels in school, is learning English as well, and is becoming a well rounded young man.   We call him "The Donald" because he is very cautious with the money we send him, buying goats and other livestock rather than clothes.  We are absolutely certain that he will be a successful farmer someday.

We enjoy our participation with this non-profit.  They organize trips for sponsors so that if you want to meet your child, you can, as well as check out the schools, etc. I have no plans to do so, but it's nice to know I can.  In addition, I get frequent pictures of our boys, as well as records of their grades, how they spent the holidays, and interesting information about the region of Africa where they are growing up.

We can give the kids small sums of money for their birthdays and Christmas, and of course we do.  Each boy sends us a "Thank you" note with an itemization of how they spent the money.  Both boys are fiscally responsible (The Donald - especially!).

If you are able to, look into these non-profits and see if one appeals to you.  The one I chose was Compassion International ( )  but you might find another more to your liking.  Compassion is Christian based - although I don't see any one denomination emphasized over another.  And they appear to respect the culture where they work, as Abosalam attends both Christian services and mosque.  I find this very soothing.

So consider becoming a part of another child's life.  I promise you it will be just like parenting your own little group, with highs, lows, budgets and recipes, if either of the boys send me one!


  1. You two are my absolute FAVORITES. What a wonderful thing to do.

  2. What a great thing to do! Y'all are an inspiration.



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