Empty Nest Syndrome 2.0 

By Terri Mlotek 


I don’t have any school children anymore. Not in grade school, middle school, high school or college. I have a grown daughter who now teaches children of her own. But I feel pangs of heartbreak when I see the effervescent colors of Crayola boxes ads, the back-to-school clothing commercials or the bright yellow school buses on the street corners as I go for my run today on this early mid-August morning. 

There in the distance, I see a woman grabbing one last Instagram shot of her sweet daughter before she goes off to Kindergarten and my heart skips a beat. Beaming from ear to ear, is the pigtailed happiness of the future and the panic of a mother relinquishing her control for the very first time.  

The memories of my own daughter on her first day of school sends tears streaming down my face. Hard to decipher that between all the sweat pouring down me at that moment. But I know the difference. 

Even today, I still have a compulsion to go out and buy number two pencils, highlighters, glue sticks and rulers for fear that I’m missing out on this societal rite of passage. Remembering the Zombie-like sense I’d feel that if I didn’t get everything on the school list, it might be Apocalyptic. 

As I run down the streets seeing the backpacks tugging at the clusters of kids waiting for their buses to arrive, I revel in my knowledge that I still keep the Texas Instruments TI30 calculator from the 1990s under lock and key. 

I’m convinced that there will be a time capsule one day and I will have to relinquish it for memory sake. Where exactly did I put that? (Mental note for when I get home to look for it.) 

The angst of the start of the school year is never lost on me. I’m certain that as kids grow older and more parents become “empty nesters,” the feelings are similar.  I call myself Empty Nester 2.0 because I am further removed from this than ever before. Yet, the desire to still feel that connection remains high. 

For me, it’s the reality that as life moves on and I get older, I now look at those moments as joys whereas I might have once felt they were stressful. Years of making a mad dash for the right colored folders. Panicked that we couldn’t find the correct protractor. Or bolting into the office supply store in search of the last calculator in our zip code that hadn’t been swallowed up yet, was all part of the process of spending quality time with my child. I get that now. I didn’t quite then. And for that, I will forever be sorrowful. 

As an “E.N. 2.0” I write this to all the parents who are filling the backpacks, buying the snacks for lunches or planning their itineraries for the school year. Love every minute of it!!! It goes by so fast. And one day, you might be running by it, like me and thinking….Just one more No. 2 pencil!