I remember hearing my parents and grandparents say this over and over throughout my childhood.
And then…I had my own kids and my firstborn turned 21. In. A. Blink.
The passage of time and my own impending empty nest became something I also experienced at breakneck speed.
I live in Canada. The birthday that’s a big deal here is 19. That’s the legal drinking age in most provinces. However, I’m a dual citizen from the Philadelphia area. In the states, turning 21 is a huge deal and it was a huge deal for me back in the day.
I remember clearly when I had my first legal drink. My mom took me out to Bookbinders, a fine seafood restaurant in the city and I ordered a glass of wine. I wasn’t into drinking and partying, so it was memorable as a “first.” Turning 21 isn’t a big deal in Canada AT ALL! It’s nothing really. Just a birthday. Because of my American roots and the pervasiveness of American culture, it still feels like a big milestone…for me…but not for my son.
Of course, this whole “time’s flying thing” is all about the perception of time and also about aging.
I’ve read that it’s a common phenomenon across cultures. So interesting! There are several different theories about why this happens but nothing conclusive.
I’m remembering back to my psychology days at the University of Guelph. I conducted a study where I had participants watch an exciting, action-packed movie clip and also a boring, slow-paced movie clip. Each were shown for the same amount of time. Subjects had to estimate the amount of time that had passed while they were watching each clip. You may have already guessed that subjects thought less time had passed when they were immersed in an exciting video clip and thought more time had passed when they were bored to tears.
This is what I think’s going on. Since I had my three sons so close in age about 20 years ago, I’ve been immersed in an exciting, fast-paced, action-packed phase of life.
So many firsts.
So much love.
So incredibly busy.
So many transitions.
So many new friendships.
One big, chaotic blur at times and I’ve relished every minute of it.
Now, with two of my three kids away at university, my nest is emptying right out. Also at record speed.
This, too, is a busy, wonderful phase of life full of firsts and lots of love.
But it’s also full of dancing…I like to call it the Dance of Independence Phase.
It’s a new dance that’s actually quite hard to learn. None of us really know the rules. Both partners, the chickadee and the mama bird, are testing the waters a bit.
I keep getting another image in my mind though. Remember “PushMi, PullYu” – the two headed llama with a head at each end – from Dr. Doolittle? That’s the dance I’m talking about.
- The large, handsome, hairy chickadee:
- makes a seamless transition when he moves out and goes to school;
- isn’t completely paying his way yet, but feels independent and works hard;
- doesn’t call home with regularity…or send spontaneous texts but Skypes when instructed to do so; and
- is really doing amazing at school and has a bright future.
- The midlife mama bird of the handsome, hairy chickadee:
- feels the bittersweet passage of time;
- sometimes feels unappreciated by her hairy but adorable chickadee;
- gets extreme pleasure from doing things to make her chickadee’s life easier;
- is super proud of the accomplishments of her chickadee; and
- loves that her chickadee had an easy time leaving the nest, but misses the times he needed her more regularly.
Not all chickadees have beards, but that’s what my nest looks like. Chickadees with beards. Just work with me on this one.
The whole empty nest thing is an adjustment for all of us. Independence is good. I know that. You know that.
The dance has it’s missteps and occasional hurt feelings on both sides.
But we’re doing the dance.
We’re learning the rules of this new phase of life.
Chickadees still need our help, but just in a different way. Independence comes at different times, in different countries. Then REAL independence comes eventually too. On individual timelines. Gradually.
We learn the rules together.
Chickadees like knowing help is always there for them when they need it. The safety net of love and support in this nest isn’t going anywhere.
My guess is that time will continue to fly. It may even appear to fly faster as I get older and life continues to bring more transitions. And the hairy chickadees will continue to fly out of the nest, leaving whiskers along the way.
Regret-proofing the empty nest phase of your life is important and I’m here to help. It’s just one reason my coaching clients find me. We’re all in this dance together.
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