There are various milestones in a child’s life, these including a baby’s first step, or their first words, as time progresses these milestones become bigger and bigger. At the age of eighteen parents finally witness one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking milestones of all: the departure. Often times the attention rests with those leaving, but the reality is that this event has the same if not more impact on the parents. They become “empty nesters” with no birds left in the nest to take care of. They must unfortunately allow their birds to fly and discover their passions, while they stay behind and learn to live without running after their children. In order to understand the emotions that come with this event, Mr. Sinbald Cheng (dad to Ciara ’12 and Conor ’15) and Ms. Lynne Smith (mum to Elyce ’09, Laurel ’11 and Tavis ’14) provide us with some insight on being empty nesters.
Adapting to a life of no children can be quite hard at times. Ms. Smith says “as a teacher I miss not running into them in the hallways, or embarrassing them on their birthdays!” Mr. Cheng also confesses what he misses most about not having his children around is “being able to see them and make sure that they are ok…that they are happy.” There is a certain security in being able to see with your own eyes that your children are safe. Ms. Smith mentions how she still misses the small talk at dinner too.
Staying in touch is often a parents biggest fears when it comes to their children leaving the nest. When kids are at high school they might be constantly involved in school activities but they always find their way back home. Relationships between parents and children differ but both Ms. Smith and Mr. Cheng were really involved in their children’s lives. “Conor played a lot of sports and I coached his sports, so I saw him a lot.” Ms. Smith mentioned how technology has helped close the physical distance between her and her kids. “We’ve had to find ways to keep in touch, which isn’t easy when one of them is 8 hours behind us and the others are 5 hours ahead so Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook etc is all used a lot more.”
It is important to note how life without children alters a lot of plans in a parent’s life. Ms. Smith admitted that things were a lot quieter and the house feels a lot emptier. There are no doubt negative aspects to living without your kids under the same roof yet there are also a lot of positive aspects.
I have my car to myself again!! It’s also a lot cheaper … except that now we probably go out more often so that outweighs the cheap aspect!”
Mr. Cheng mentions how “you have more freedom to make spontaneous plans without always seeing if your children are available.” After eighteen years of keeping an eye on someone else’s life it’s finally time to simply look after yourself–perhaps with a little nudge to the kids once in a while to check everyone is on track.
Both parents gave very insightful advice to others becoming empty nesters. Ms. Smith urges parents to
Try to see the positive side in it! This is what you’ve been working towards for 18 years (give or take) and it’s a really exciting time for them! Let them be excited and be excited for them!!!”.
Ms. Smith has been an empty nester for some years now and is able to provide an optimistic approach to saying goodbye. Mr. Cheng on the other hand recently said goodbye to his youngest son a month ago, the emotions are still quite fresh. This part of the interview caused tears to well in his eyes, yet he continued with motivational words.
Spend as much time as you can with them before they go; tell them how much they mean to you, that you are always there even if you are not physically there.”