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Empty Nest Training

Mary Dell writes: Sitting on the sidelines, I have long been jealous of my husband. He coached our son in baseball and football, sports into which they both poured their high school energies. Our 16-year-old daughter is now in training for preseason soccer and I am finally sharing a sport – running – with my child. Since she will be off to college in two years, and we will have an empty nest, I am savoring these mother-daughter moments.

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Several times a week we drive to our high school track. After a little jogging and stretching, we sip from water bottles, our warm up now complete. I fumble with the earphones on my iPod while she races off, motivated by twin goals of a sub-seven minute mile and a spot on the varsity team. Waddling down the track, I admire my daughter’s athleticism and discipline. I can’t imagine what superhero capabilities the teenagers who compete at the Olympics are born with and perfect through their years of hard training.

The track is built around a football field and at times I can watch her running across from me, 100 yards of green space separating us. I follow her as she rounds a curve and disappears from my line of sight. She sometimes gives me a half wave as she speeds by. After she passes, I notice the rhythmic way her braided pony tail fans her back.

I go with her not only to get some exercise myself but also to act as guardian since it’s summertime and the track is usually deserted. While I never feared for my six-foot tall son when he worked out alone, I am reluctant to send her off, solo. Truth be told, I am a little reluctant to send her off at all. She is the baby of the family and when she leaves for college, my husband and I will remain at home in a house that will be so very quiet.

For now, I am in training with her as a runner. That is the official reason for our trips to the high school. My secret, unofficial reason is that I am training myself to accept how very grown up she is. We share the track and occasionally run alongside each other but I am neither pushing nor pulling her as I might have when she was a little girl, shy about joining the town soccer program. We are running our own, very independent, yet connected races. The training is good.

Read more from Grown and Flown on their blog

Grown and Flown

Grown and Flown: Parenting from the Empty Nest reflects on the arc of parenting with an emphasis on 15-25 year olds. Lisa Endlich Heffernan is an author and wrote a NYT Business Bestseller following a Wall Street career. After working in media, Mary Dell Harrington became a school and hospital volunteer. Counting all five of their kids, they have 93 years of parenting experience. They’ve been working moms and stay-at-home moms and have shepherded their children in and out of elementary, middle and high school. With their youngest now seniors in high school, they have the empty nest in sight.

Carpool Goddess

Wednesday 2nd of April 2014

Sweet memories to cherish as your daughter goes off to college. My daughter and I enjoyed longs walks and occasional workout classes (when she drags me!) when she was in high school. I always look forward to them when she comes home to visit.


Monday 31st of March 2014

The training is indeed very good! I ran with my youngest daughter from grade 8 on. She talks of it now (ten years later) as the best time of her life! Thank you for bringing back those precious memories!

Grown and Flown

Monday 31st of March 2014

Diane, how lovely that your daughter has sun fond memories of those times she spent with you. Thanks for sharing your story here.


Monday 31st of March 2014

Soccer gave me umpteen years of memories with my daughter, now a college graduate and briefly back at home. I hope your daughter makes the team and that you continue to run with her as long as you can! Time and feet fly!

Grown and Flown

Monday 31st of March 2014

Kymberly, thanks so much - she made the team and we still work out together, from time to time. I will cherish those days at the track.

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