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  • Writer's pictureMorgan Baker

The Goodbye Season - kids leaving home


The Goodbye season - kids leave home
Morgan Baker, Author of Emptying the Nest: Getting Better at Goodbyes

This is the season of goodbyes as the kids leave home

Children are back in classrooms, and young adults have headed off to their next adventure, whether college, the military or work. It’s the goodbye season as kids leave home and time for parents to greet the emptier nest. For some that’s harder than for others. Some parents welcome the quieter house. Once the kids have closed the front door, parents don’t need to worry about whether their teens get home safe and before curfew. Its the goodbye season


We don’t need to know our kids’ every move. There is more freedom to pay attention to our own needs and desires. Sounds good, but, when my oldest went off to college, I floundered like a fish trying to get back into the water after being caught and dropped on a boat. I wanted to jump back into

the familiar sea. It took me a long time to accept and embrace the freedom that came with the silent

nest, and embark on adventures of my own. First, however, I fell apart


Saying goodbye to my oldest was the hardest

Saying goodbye to my oldest was the hardest, despite having another daughter still at home. But I knew, as I watched Maggie say goodbye to our three dogs before she got into the station wagon loaded with clothes, bedding, and field hockey equipment, that our family was forever changed. We would never be the foursome who ate waffles on the weekend, went to soccer games, and church. Dinners at the kitchen counter were smaller and quieter.


I did know she would be back – but only for visits. She would be moving forward, as I wanted her to, but I was stuck in the past, missing and crying for what had been. With her gone, so too was the music I heard every morning as she got ready for school. I missed her mess. Who knew I would long for that? When I came home from teaching, there were no boots or sneakers in the front hall, no backpack in the living room, or a trail of belongings leading to her bedroom. I closed her door. I couldn’t look at the vacant room where posters still hung advertising the movie Ladder 49, another one of a polar bear, a photograph from the Patriots’ snow ball game, and another poster of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom from Pirates of the Caribbean. Papers, pens, and pencils and jars of coins cluttered her desk as though she had just left for the day. Looking into the room was like viewing a bedroom of a historic home. It gave the visitor a sense of who had lived there and when.


After Maggie was gone, I filled my time with whatever I could think of so I didn’t think about her or our family. I added on to carpool, I did physical therapy, and dog training. What I wish I had done is identify those aspects of me I could grow – like my quilting and writing. I wish I had relied on my friends more. In a few years Ellie would leave as well.


But the good news is that by then, I had learned a lot about myself and how to take care of myself. While I may have said “goodbye” to my daughters, that goodbye allowed me to say hello to me, to get to know who I am besides a mother.


I now spend more time with my husband, our dogs, and me. I quilt more than ever. I work out almost daily. I write a lot. I see my friends. I still teach college students, but I’ve also started private zoom workshops. And, I published a book!


I’m busy, but when I wake up in the morning, I think about what I’m going to do for the day. I don’t worry about getting my kids out the door, making sure they eat breakfast and have a lunch for later. I don’t worry about car pools and homework.


You can't stop being a parent

Despite them being “gone”, they are never truly gone. You can’t stop being a parent once your kids leave home. Children, regardless of age, are always going to want and need their parents, especially when they are sad, going through a rough patch, or lonely. Their problems are now more complicated than when they ran down the street and tripped on a tree root and fell. Love, kisses, and a band-aid, fixed that. The truth is I can’t fix their problems now, but I can support them, encourage them, and listen to them. Hopefully, they know how to take care of themselves.


Now when we spend time together, it is mostly for holidays and vacations. We play cards and board games, go for walks, and listen to music. Welcoming them home is exciting, and always bittersweet when they leave.


Goodbye doesn’t mean a relationship is over. It changes

My relationships with my daughters have continued to evolve and grow. While I’ll probably always miss the time when they were little and I could actually fix some of their problems, I also love watching them grow, develop their own interests, take on jobs, marry, and when they do fall down, I watch them pick

themselves up and move on. I’m not a fixer anymore. I’m more of a support beam, and now I have the time to focus on me which was a gift I didn’t expect.


Morgan Baker is an is an award-winning writer, the Managing Editor of The Bucket and professor at Emerson College. Her work is featured in The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe Magazine, The Brevity Blog, Talking Writing, The Bark, Cognoscenti, and Hippocampus, among many regional and national publications. She lives with her husband and two dogs in Cambridge, where she also quilts and bakes.


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