Babies and Empty Nests  7/1/2013
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As I stood in the checkout line at Target a few weeks ago, I watched a young girl with a toddler struggle to set her purchases on the conveyer belt while simultaneously trying to keep her ambitious son from throwing all the displayed candy bars into her cart.  I chuckled, remembering similar battles with my own young ones many years ago, and thanked all the saints that it was her and not me.  Yet not twenty minutes before that, I had met a co-worker with her newborn and thought enviously that I’d love to have another baby.

Where does this compulsion to nurture come from?  The years I spent raising my four children were filled with delight and sorrow, love, tears and laughter.  I wouldn’t have missed them for any reason, but I also wouldn’t wish them back. 

I wonder if men feel the same way, if they remember little arms around their necks and whispered secrets at bedtime, warm bodies smelling of Johnson’s Baby Powder snuggled next to them while they read A Year at Maple Grove Farm for the umpteenth time.  Or do they only remember the gargantuan effort it took to get that warm body into the tub?

When I see my children caring for their own young sons and daughters and think of the inevitable battles they have ahead of them, I’m very grateful for my empty nest.  No more will I have to rise at three a.m. to comfort the child whose nightmare shrieks have prompted the neighbors to call the police.  No more bandaged knees or elbows, school physicals, or braces.  Never again will I have to watch my 16-year-old drive off for the first time in the car and wonder if he’ll come back in one piece.  Or pray over the 17-year-old who got in with a bad crowd.

I have the freedom to come and go as I please, without worrying over mealtimes or diaper bags and strollers.  I don’t have to think about naptimes or play dates, parent-teacher conferences or out-of-control hormones.  Yet somewhere in the recesses of my memory is a small voice lisping “I love you, Mommy,” and I know I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

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