There is a scene from When Harry Met Sally (Best Movie Ever) when Sally is in the middle of a good, fitful, pitty party over news that her ex is getting married. Crying, and defeated, she laments to Harry:
S: And I’m going to be 40 …
S: Someday …
H: In 8 years …
S: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there like this big dead end … (sobs)
Now that you have the visual, picture me standing at the counter at a University visitors center checking our 15 year old son, my baby boy, in for his first college tour. I could feel the eye rolls as I stood there visibly choking back tears while I told the young woman behind the counter that our son will graduate in two years.
We’re going to be empty nesters with two adult children. When? Someday. In almost three years. But it’s there. It’s just sitting there like this big dead end. (Sobs).
To be clear, my husband and I have a long and distinguished bucket list of things we can hardly wait to do, see, and experience together once both chicks have flown the nest and we find ourselves with a little more time and freedom on our hands. But I am going to miss these active-parenting years with kiddos in the house. And it is shocking to me that this next milestone – which once upon a time felt so very far away – is all of a sudden looming just around the corner.
Life is full of these turning points, though. Graduations, weddings, anniversaries, welcoming children, and years later sending those same children off into the world, signal shifts in your life. They bring with them subtle (or not so subtle) changes in your day-to-day experience, how you view yourself and your priorities, and how you see your future.
In short, life’s milestones give you reason to pause and take stock. They provoke a reflective look back at everything it took to get to that moment. They provide an excuse for an all-out celebration of life and living. They also are times that force your eyes forward – with aspiration and hopefully inspiration – toward your future and what it may hold. But like that moment at the college visitors center, these can be emotional times.
When we brought our first born home from the hospital, I remember laying her on the bed between my husband and me, and she looked at us, and we looked at each other, and shell-shocked by the realization that we were parents, my husband and I nervously laughed, “Now what do we do?” When we brought our son home years later, we were seasoned parenting “professionals”, but as both kids both demanded one hundred percent of our attention, we looked at each other and again nervously (and exhaustedly) declared, “Oh God, we have two, now what do we do?” So when that inevitable day arrives, and the house is quiet, and we find ourselves with an empty nest, I won’t be surprised if we come around full circle and look at each other and wonder aloud again, “what will we do next?”
I hope that we take the opportunity in that moment to take a look back at everything we did to reach that milestone – what we did right and what we could have done better. I hope that we pop champagne and celebrate. And I hope that we pause to look forward optimistically – toward our future and our children’s futures – and all the promise that they hold.
Though warning, hubby: it may get just a little bit emotional. (Sobs).