The Virtual Empty Nest


Glamorous Lifeby Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown

I am sitting here in my newly empty nest. My last child has bailed out of the family nest, spread her wings and flown off to college. I just can’t quite figure out how those 18 years flew by so fast. It’s been quite an adjustment. I’ve been through something similar to this before when my first child left for college. I would go sit in his room in his La-Z-Boy recliner and cry. I was so sad. The worst of it came when his first birthday rolled around that he wasn’t home for us to celebrate together. After all, it is my big day, too! So, I baked him his favorite cake and actually over-nighted it to him in California where he is in school. My husband said it was the most expensive birthday cake ever, and that I could never do it again. Ever. I am glad my daughter has a summer birthday!

So, here I am experiencing all those feelings of change again, but this time, there is not another child at home to keep me from sinking into a state of depression by demanding my attention (hubby doesn’t count). Just an old dog, an older cat, and an ancient tortoise. I better go find the Prozac.

No! I decided that I must make a plan to keep myself busy. You know—create a new life for myself for the next 45 years!! That’s a long time. I began to imagine all the possibilities of what I could do. The more I imagined, and thought about it, the more excited I became. I mean, I can do anything now. I can act and do and behave and dress any way I want to now, and not worry about embarrassing anyone (hubby doesn’t count this time either—he willingly married into it).

For starters, to cheer myself up, I went through some recent photos of my birthday party and posted some of them on my Facebook page. In no time, I got a message from my daughter demanding to know what in the world I am doing posting those photos? That I look drunk. Then, I got another one from my other child asking why I was drunk and why would I post those photos? I also got a message from my mother asking if I have turned to drinking now that I am an empty nester? I just thought they were fun, but I took them down. So much for my freedom.

I never really had time to watch much television before, so I thought I might get caught up on some shows that I never had time to watch, like SMASH! So, as I settled in to watch a DVD, I tweeted that it was time to get SMASHED! And within seconds my daughter was texting me asking if I realized what that meant and how it made me sound. Her friends were following me on Twitter, she said, and had re-tweeted it to her. I told her to tell her friends to stop stalking me, that I don’t follow them.

When I posted a new photo on Instagram of a picture that my husband had taken of me, my son immediately texted me and said he saw it, and then a tense silence followed. When I asked him what he thought of it, he asked me what was he supposed to think about it, with me dressed like that. I guess he doesn’t like my left shoulder. That was the only thing showing except for my face, so I am hoping that was the part he objected to. But, you never know with kids.

Forget Big Brother watching, it’s the Big Kids you have to worry about. My kids are stalking my every move. The NSA would have to call them for info. It feels like I am under constant surveillance. If I post a comment late at night, they immediately want to know what’s wrong, why am I up so late? If it is a photo of me having a good time, they want to know if I am drinking.

If you have tried, as I have, to gain some independence from your kids and tried desperately to cut the cord, I have news for you: it’s wireless now! They may be saying, “Look Mom, No Hands!” but they can get to you from anywhere, making it feel like they have theirs firmly clasped in yours. I can’t get away. If I check in on Foursquare, they tell me that it is no place for me to be, aren’t I too old for that crowd? I thought college was supposed to be a hands–free experience, a time when they were on their own, and left you on your own, too. But, with their phones and surveillance equipment—I mean tech tools—it’s anything but hands off. And, now, with Facetime and Skyping, I can even see the disbelief on their faces to go along with the tone of their texts. It’s unnerving.

Maybe they weren’t expecting me to embrace my new-found independence so quickly. Maybe to them it seems as if I have adapted and am having too much fun. Maybe I have and maybe I am! My kids should be enjoying their lives and having as much fun as I am—after all, they couldn’t wait to get out on their own. They spent years telling me they couldn’t wait for college, and if I asked where they were heading as they were walking out the door, they accused me of being too involved in their lives. Now, they seem overly interested in what I am up to.

That’s the problem with today’s wireless technology. My kids might not be physically here with me, but they are ever-present in my daily life. In reality, I kind of like it that way. Just don’t tweet that I said that.

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