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The empty nesters
By Tajamul Hussain
When children were born, we imagined what they'll be like when they grow up. What we didn't imagine was what we'd be like when they do. As our twenty-something son flew over his (Cuckoo's) nest, we're suddenly woken up to the stark realization of being hurled as 'Empty Nesters'. Realising that the clan must carry on successfully, I understand that it requires equipping children with the necessary skills to get on with their lives effectively and competently and if possible even let them fly the coop of their own. But then at times, I get to the question mark, 'was it right to have allowed our children to fly away?' When the children irrevocably move to a place like the USA, the pain of separation is simply overpowering.

'Empty-Nesters' are growing in number at a geometric progression. You may find them everywhere. For this wretched lot, the farfetched feelings of being-able-to-be-with-children on a regular basis and the nostalgia of when-we-were-all-together are suddenly the things of past....irretrievable to boot. The goodbye of the children is as if your "new life" felt much like when you're newlyweds without children. Leaving home and heading into the unknown, initially thoughts race through heads. 'Did I prepare him for the world?' 'Will he be successful in life?' A terrible feeling of impending doom lingers and tugs at heartstrings of the 'Empty Nester'.

The house is a story of one's life. The pictures hanging on the walls tell you of the years spent under one roof together. The pictures bring a smile to your face and give you an opportunity to relieve from those happy moments once more. You walk down the room to where your child spent the last twenty/thirty some years. When children were home, we'd many things to do. It now seems there's nothing to do. Without much purpose of life now, beautiful memories of childbirth, the sounds of the pitter-patter of the little feet running against the hardcore floors, hoo-ha caused during celebrations of Eid and birthdays, recitals of songs and school lessons, reprimands, rebuttals, refusals, defiance, cries and shrieks, couch potatoeing and gluing with cell phones and social network flash through mind.

All you can see in your mind are haunting images of your child at various stages in his/her life…precious memories that only you and you alone possess. Unless you're a social isolate or an Alexithymiac, tears well up and you feel like sobbing. You walk into the room and pick up that old raggedy teddy bear and hold it so close to your heart that it's as though you're holding that beautiful baby once again. You miss your children badly when you fail to operate your mobile, laptop or some other electronic gizmo. Reality sets in. One of the most wonderful and fulfilling stages of your life has come to end. The proud builder that once-upon-a-time swaggered around the hustle and bustle of the nest, is now left kind of spent, shocked and shattered.

In the life of a bird, the 'fleeting-from-the-nest' comes sooner than the mother would probably care for, but it does happen. The mother either nudges its younglings or they get curious and go it alone, their first flight. Soon, the nest is empty and it's now her lonely home. Baby birds spend such little time in their nests being nurtured: at least vis-à-vis human babies. We, the humans that watch children spreading wings and flying away someday--likening it to birds-- perceive it a sort of cutting the 'umbilical cord' a second time, only instead of coming into our world, they're leaving it and taking a substantial piece of our hearts with them. Unborn and in the womb, an 'umbilical cord' is what sustains our children----gives them nourishment. It's what keeps them alive. As if it were symbolic of the' first cord' as they grow we keep caring for them. The first cutting brings overwhelming joy, and the second, the heart-wrenching sorrow.

The constancy of social ties into old age has declined or disappeared. Under our own custom of neo-local residence, bride and groom don't live near either the groom's parents or the bride's parents, but they instead go off to establish a new separate residence of their own. With the increased life expectancy and having only a child or two, the parents survive to experience an empty nest for years together, often for many decades. Old parents left to them (selves) in the empty nest are unlikely to find themselves still living near life-long friends. The change of residence by the child may lead to their being cut off from their friends, kind of a proverbial 'having-been-thrown-away'.

Traditionally oldies spent their final years living with the same group in the same settlement or even in the same house, in which they'd spent their adult lives or even their whole lives. There they maintained the social ties that had supported them throughout their lives, including ties with the surviving lifelong friends and with at least some of their children. They generally had their sons and daughters or both living nearby. As the upwardly mobile youth began moving out in droves to the green pastures the traditional simplicities buckled under the swagger of Yuburbia. And in its wake were born the 'Latch-Key-Kids' and the 'Empty-Nesters'.


News Updated at : Sunday, March 19, 2017
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