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goodbyeI never experienced the empty nest syndrome because our house was always full. First with children, then with teenagers, and then with young adults when our older kids stayed home during their college years. At every stage, their friends visited on a regular basis. So when women shared with me the sadness and silence of an empty home, I could sympathize but not really grasp the concept.

With so many teens at home, we will probably not have silence in this house for many years to come, and that's how my husband and I like it. We are parents who enjoy spending as much time as possible with our kids. We party with them, vacation with them, and in our house, the 18/24 rule doesn't apply.  

What? You've never heard of the 18/24 rule?

This is when your child turns 18 and he/she has 24 hours to get the heck out of the house. If I had enough money to buy a huge range, I would place all my "chickens" within one compound so that I could continue to enjoy the hustle and bustle they bring. My husband and I often talked about the possibility that some of our children might live far away from us. But we never expected that our oldest child would lead the way.

At 21, Stephanie is a real firecracker. Growing up, her winning personality and great demeanor always put her ahead of the game. A hard worker in school and on the job, she proved that you can do it all by working through college, starting her own business, and graduating six months ahead of her peers.  With Steph, we always knew the sky was the limit.

In a serious relationship for the past two years, Steph was not like most girls in my time that wanted to get married and settle down. At the same time, she wasn't ready to walk away from a guy that everyone liked and she was in love with. So it did not come as a big surprise when she asked for our permission to move in with her young man and see how it works out.  

Of course, this would take her out of our house and into a different city. Granted, San Francisco isn't that far away. But a 90-minute plane flight is not exactly next door either. So we talked about her move and planned ahead for a month. When it came time for our annual skiing trip, we all packed and left for Mammoth in the usual manner. The only difference was that at the end of this trip, Steph would go to her new home instead of coming back to ours.  

The weekend on the slopes flew by, and soon it was time to squeeze all our gear back into the car for the return trip. When the time came for us to go, I began to cry. As I hugged my baby, images of her childhood flashed before my eyes. I knew I had to let her go, but I just couldn't.  

After a while, my husband gently pried me away so that he could get in a final hug as well. As he held Stephanie close, I saw tears streaming down his face, and that's when it really hit me. I knew then, with unshakeable certainty, that it would never be the same again. Our baby had grown up, our job was done, and it was time for her to go.
I knew she was making the right choice and that she would be just fine on her own. I also knew that she would always be close to me no matter how far away. Nevertheless, this signaled the next chapter of her life and of ours, and it was time to move on, no matter how painful.

As we got into the car, I tried to hold back the tears. I hugged our puppy and was grateful that I could hide my tears in his fur and that everyone in the car pretended not to notice. I told myself to focus on the positive. I recounted all the suggestions I gave to my girlfriends when their kids moved out. But nothing could fill the huge hole in my heart. It was then that I understood what I have preached all along—that if you raise your kids right they will leave you to live their own lives.

I quietly took my husband's hand and was grateful that he understood without me saying anything. After a while, he handed me the cell phone so I could make a plane reservation to San Francisco to see my baby and help her settle into her new life.
Next chapter, next stage, next test.  And once again, a new experience.




Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • First of all, that’s a picture of you and Stephanie, isn’t it? You know, Yana, you’ve raised a fabulous young woman. She is still so very connected to her mom and dad and even though she’s living somewhere else, and I know that’s really really hard, she is never ever far away. She will never stray too far from her family. As she and her young man give this relationship step a try, I just know she’ll gently but persistently pull him in the direction of her loving family. She’s her mother’s daughter. She has all the strength and determination you instilled in her. And the very large amount of love you all have for one another will keep her close at hand.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cindylouwho1966 wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • Yana, you made me cry. What you‘re describing sounds like the way my mom felt about me leaving. I was an only child and I stayed around the “compound” for many years, even through a marriage and divorce. But when it was finally time to take the big plunge, and move 6 hours away to Chicago (at age 33, mind you!) she was beside herself.  

      She is gone now, and sometimes I wonder if I made the right choice to move so far away. But she was unwilling to cut the apron strings-so I had to.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Angela 'Cocco' Williams wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • Yana,
      Your story touched my heart and soul on so many levels. It brought back all the feelings that I had the day my daughter and her new husband moved all her things out of our house into the moving truck. I actually thought I was gonna die. At first I just sat there in the car and all of a sudden I could feel tear swelling up in my eyes. I remembered reading about pruning plants. That must really hurt I thought to be cut down so deep into the meat of the plant. It’s what is best though I remember saying because it causes the plant to grow correctly and be strong. I said God this is hard and it hurts but I know Angela and I are strong. She has only been gone 5 months and It still feels like yesterday. The thing with me is that I still have a hard time talking to her. It is hard because I don’t want her to hear saddness in my voice. I don’t want to paralize her into feeling like she has to be with me. I really want am proud of her and I really want her to LIVE! I’m grateful to read that i am not being selfish about wanting her to stay here with the family. I love what you said about if you raise your kids right they will leave you. That is a Powerful statement sister.
      Blessings
      Cocco



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Carine Nadel wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • Yana, I know of what you speak-we don’t have the full house you do, but as you know, our daughter moved out to leave w/ her then fiance to a home known as “the hovel“.  We were prepared, same as you-but they both had been living with us for a year.  We loved it, but we knew it was time for her to live apart from us.  Long Beach is much closer than Frisco, so we see her, son-in-law and the grandkids quite a bit.

      this week though, Adam and our soon to be daughter-in-law, who both live with us, almost bought a condo.

      Now this is my baby-when he and Sam do find a place, I’m sure there will be buckets of tears.

      We will miss them and Toby their cat.

      However, it will be quite a beginning too-we will be like newlyweds again.  With our cat-same as before we had Sarah.  And if God is good, Sunshine will continue to be with us.

      I’m prepared, but not ready.  Yet-I’m looking forward to seeing what the next step brings.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Feathermaye wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • What a beautiful post, Yana. I love the relationship you share with Stephanie. My mother and I are very close (I'm the oldest of two... no sisters!) and she frequently reminds me that if Scott and I wanted to move home, there's always room...

      Thanks so much for sharing Stephanie with us today. And congratulations on getting it right the first time around!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • Thanks guys for your heartwarming comments.

      As much as I would love to take all the credit that we did it right, I think we as parents do our very best, but then we have to be lucky. I feel blessed and very lucky, I just didn’t think I’ll be such a wuss. frown



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Janie Emaus wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • Yana,

       That was a beautiful story.  And SO true.  I wish Steph all the best of luck.

      Janie



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenz ~ wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • Yana, I don’t get the impression that you‘re a wuss at all. lol
      That was a beautiful story & you‘re very blessed. I believe you should be very proud of the job you’ve done as a great Mom & together as parents. It sounds like you have an awesome loving family & that’s wonderful.
      Now you just need a plane ticket/bank account. ;)
      I wish you and Stehanie- your whole family all the best.
      I think I’m the wuss- pass the kleenex! haha



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jenz ~ wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • Yana, I don’t get the impression that you‘re a wuss at all. lol
      That was a beautiful story & you‘re very blessed. I believe you should be very proud of the job you’ve done as a great Mom & together as parents. It sounds like you have an awesome loving family & that’s wonderful.
      Now you just need a plane ticket/bank account. ;)
      I wish you and Stehanie- your whole family all the best.
      I think I’m the wuss- pass the kleenex! haha



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • I know exactly what you mean.  My son is now 17 and turning 18 in June.  Years ago, I could not wait if he moved out and be on his own.  Now this boy of mine, is growing to a man, I will keep him.  He can stay as long as he wants for Mama just want to see him.

      I know exactly what you mean.... it is hard to let go.  Our baby is always a baby.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • What a wonderful story!  It is a new chapter in our lives but with each new chapter ...new things arise and we will find joy again in the new.  Don’t be sad.....there is more in store for you!!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cheryl Guy wrote Mar 6, 2009
    • My heart aches for you! I will be traumatized also when my son grows up and leaves. I am having a hard time just knowing he will be 16 and driving next month!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cbc wrote Mar 12, 2009
    • Yana
      What a lovely story!  I am holding back the tears as there are other people in this room!  We sent both our children off to college only to have them return home to live and go to another school nearby.  Once they were gone, we became used to the empty nest and enjoyed the new freedom, fewer worries, and less stress.  As much as we love them, we are anxious for them to move out, move on with their lives, and return to visit. Thanks for sharing your story.



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