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Make sure you give yourself a chance to grieve,
A parent handout helpfully suggests.
My last one’s gone; I thought she’d never leave.
Children at this stage in life are guests
who have outstayed their welcome. Why deceive
myself, pretend I’m sad when empty nests
are full of possibilities? Why mourn?
I haven’t had much peace since they were born.

At last, we’re free—no longer wasting hour
after hour acting like we care
about recitals. We step into the shower
unafraid we’ll slip on greasy hair
conditioner, and we don’t face a tower
of dishes every night or have to share
our groceries. A stocked refrigerator
isn’t empty twenty minutes later.

Grieve because they finally moved out? No;
but with them gone I see the years ahead
opening like a pathway deep in snow
above the tree line; ridges I can’t tread
at half the pace of thirty years ago,
when I was starting out. Of course, I dread
the icy gulfs we’ll cross as we descend
along the stream we’ll ford at journey’s end.

But why complain? We’ve hiked alone before.
Our legs are wobbly, but our hearts are strong,
and we have crags and summits to explore
(for cheap, since we’ll be paying bills a long,
long time); or stay, no need to lock the door
for fear we’ll be disrupted by a throng
of uninvited children in our room.
There’s no activity we can’t resume.