The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Parental homesickness
From the moment a child is born, his or her presence is engraved on the heart (and often the body in the form of stretchmarks and episiotomy scars) of their mother forever. Kids don’t know this until they have their own kids. When you’re a kid growing up, you don’t understand why your parents are trying to control your life. If you don’t have a parent who is trying to control your life, you think you have a parent that doesn’t care about you, so you push the boundaries, waiting for the shoe to drop and your butt to get kicked.

When kids grow up and move away, in the short term, the kids miss the parents more than the parents miss the kids. The kids find the world a bit intimidating and usually fly back to the nest a few times before they are truly independent. Mom and dad eagerly await the day when their lives aren’t filled with dirty clothes lying all over and bathroom mildew that never gets clean. Why, in my house, there had to be a film of soap scum in the shower that was visibly measurable with a ruler. Mom and dad heave a sigh of relief when a whole weekend passes without them having to bail a fledgling adult out of some difficulty.

As the kids find their independence, however, the tables start to turn. The kids get partners and jobs and find out that they can stand on their own two feet. Mom and dad start to feel less and less needed. Mom, especially, starts feeling rather maudlin and gets out the baby books and photo albums for an occasional cry at the childhood that went whizzing by. Everyone told her that childhood was short. At the time, it didn’t seem that way, but looking back – it was barely giggle in the matrix of the Universe. The kids in the meantime, are having a ball. They can now stay out as late as they want to (and suffer the consequences), they can be as messy as they want to (ditto), and they don’t have to live the “not while you’re under my roof” rule.

Why do Moms miss their kids more than the kids miss their moms? I guess that’s nature’s way of ensuring the continuation of the species. It’s also nature’s way of ensuring that Momma’s boys never reproduce.

My kids don’t realise that I miss them more than they miss me. They have their girlfriends, jobs, social lives. They’re quite grown up now. And I don’t know what to do with myself when weekends and holidays roll around, which have always traditionally been the times when I’ve cooked up the big family dinner and had a large group around the table. I miss the noise, the conversations, the feeling that I was never alone, the feeling that I was part of something bigger, more important than myself.

My husband doesn’t quite understand this maternal yearning of mine. He never had his own offspring. In a way, I envy him – and in a way, I feel sorry for him. They were the best times of my life, and the worst times. I think this is why mothers start to nag their kids about giving them grandchildren, but I actually dread that day because right now, I am so far away from them. But I can tell you one thing – when that day comes, I will be like so many other grandmothers. I won’t care about the dirty clothes on the floor, the fingerprints left by little hands, the Legos left in the hallway that stab you on the bottom of your feet as you get up in the middle of the night to pee. I figure that will be my prerogative for enduring the empty nest syndrome and being homesick – for the kids my adult children once were.
posted by Melanie O. at 11:41 AM -
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About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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