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The empty nest

When I moved into my college dorm room almost exactly 16 years ago, my parents needed to get a babysitter for the day to take care of my youngest sister, who was then just 2 years old. I papered the walls of my room with pictures of her, an adorable toddler with corkscrew curls and huge brown eyes.

This past Friday, I helped move my little sister, now a beautiful teenager with corkscrew curls and huge brown eyes, into her college dorm room. And now my parents, finally, have an empty nest. For more than half their lives, they’ve been actively parenting 24/7, and now? It’s just the two of them.

This sounds pretty good to me, coming off a morning of waking up with 2 kids crammed into my bed, cooking four different breakfasts for three kids, mediating 23 petty arguments, and finding one of the seat belts in my minivan unusable because something sticky was stuffed into the buckle.

But then I watched a video of Kristen Chase reading a blog post at this year’s BlogHer conference. And boy did it resonate.

Parenting young kids is crazy, hectic and frustrating. But it’s also wonderful… and temporary. I needed a reminder to slow down and appreciate the time I have with them. I might not miss the arguments or the broken seat belts, but I know I’ll miss the impromptu dance parties, the silly songs, the egg scrambling, the steady stream of hugs and kisses.

During the hurricane tropical storm this weekend, a bird’s nest blew into our back yard. We all crowded around, admiring the intricate weaving and wondering what had happened to the birds who lived there. I left it to dry on a table in the yard. A day later, my parents stopped by. Until then, wrapped up in juggling a workweek with three kids who have neither camp nor school, I’d completely missed the ironic coincidence of that empty nest. But my mom sure didn’t. With a sad smile, she pulled out her phone, took a picture and posted it to Facebook. “It feels so weird,” she told me.

Someday I’ll know how she feels.

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