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Watching My Daughter Go

Kim Tackett talks about the lessons of empty nest parenting. She’s the one learning lessons as she watches her college daughter grow and fly the nest. Read more from Kim on her blog, Fifty Fifty Vision

She’s 20, and attending university in another state, 500 miles away. The same exact number of miles I traveled for my own college experience thirty-seven years ago. Only half the miles her older sister traveled, but still, it’s far enough.

Her sister Kate is now in grad school, 2000 miles away. My daughters are playing leapfrog, using my heart as their springboard. They claim I raised them to do this, to be curious and intrepid. I say that might be so, but clearly I didn’t know what I was doing.

Alexandra is spending next year abroad. We bought the open-ended ticket yesterday. I keep searching for a word that describes my pride in her independence and the sliver of heartbreak I feel when I imagine a year without her.


5383 miles. That’s a long way for me to help her through decisions and disappointments. To guide her through the detours, and around the barriers that will inevitably show up. The tricky turns, the leaps that require faith and courage. I don’t know if Skype and Facetime will do it. Unlike Mrs. Incredible, I fear my arms aren’t long enough.

What will she do when she has to figure it out on her own? Without me? She’s always had an extraordinary sense of direction (we refer to her internal GPS as one of her superpowers), but this is big. She’s the only student from her school going to this country. She’s going alone.

Last year I missed the annual Mom’s Weekend at her university, and of course, we’ll miss the next one. At the very last minute I decided to fly up to join the others, and perhaps buy an Oregon State Mom shirt. No plans, just hang out and do whatever we felt like doing.

It was wonderful. Every single second of it. Well, maybe not the part where I was cleaning her room, but even that was kind of wonderful.

But what I didn’t expect, was getting a front row seat to how she made choices, especially the hard ones. It was a work vs. play decision, and she really wanted to play. I wanted her to play too… we all did. I watched her figure out her options, seek solutions, get the answer she wanted, and then instantly realize that this particular answer came with risky, and even unethical, consequences. For the record, she recognized it before I did. She immediately rectified it, and moved on. No play, just work. She didn’t complain, she just did what was right.

The entire transaction was quick, and I am certain no one else caught the significance. But as a mom, we’re always looking for signs. A sign that someone needs our help, and hopefully, a sign that someone is on the right path. A moment that lets us know we did our job, and we can step away and let them move forward.

I stayed back in her apartment while the others played. I folded her laundry and vacuumed her bedroom. When she came home from her job at 1:00 a.m., I was asleep in her bed. I said, “Hey, I vacuumed your rug.” She said, “I know, I can feel it.”


Then she crawled into bed with me. She pulled my arm to wrap around her waist, and didn’t complain about my snoring, or even elbow me to stop.

She’s going to be ok. I can feel it.

Kim Tackett

Kim Tackett blogs at Fifty Fifty Vision. She’s 56 and is a proud and enthusiastic Northern Californian, living in Davis, where she is powered by coffee, new projects, travels, and her family, which includes her husband Steve, and her two fiercely independent daughters (ages 26 and 20) who are carving their own paths far away from home. This is handy, as Kim is an emerging writer who is diving deep into the midlife ecosystem. Kim is a marketing consultant at the company she owns with Steve, Tackett+Barbaria. When she can steal a moment, she’s wandering, writing, and figuring out what’s next.

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Wednesday 9th of July 2014

So beautiful! This will be me in a few years when my older son goes off to Italy for two years to study. Right now I can't even think about it! On the one hand I'm so proud of him, and on the other, I want him to stay home forever!

Aunt June

Wednesday 9th of July 2014

Totally get this one. Thanks for sharing!

Helene Cohen Bludman

Tuesday 8th of July 2014

Oh do I love this post, Kim, and I can so relate. Two of my three kids are a day of travel away and the third is two hours away. They seem to be doing OK without me there to step in ... but I so wish they lived closer. Like you, I gave them their wings (much to the shock of some family and friends) and they flew! I love their independence but I miss them!

Ruth Curran

Tuesday 8th of July 2014

I love that she "felt" that you vacuumed the rug... Seeing disappears but feeling something means you left your mark! Well done Mom!

Cathy Chester

Tuesday 8th of July 2014

Oh, you got me teary-eyed on this one Kim. My own son returned home from college after the first semester because he hated it. Now he commutes to school, so I consider it extra time being with him. As our only child we are all close, but these posts about children leaving are making me almost dread the day he does leave. I hope you will be available for a shoulder to let me cry on!

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