When Your Duck Is Leaving the Nest


Summer vacation is over and school’s back in session. September’s the time of year I usually kick back into writing gear—start kicking ass!—but I haven’t been writing much, at least nothing new, and it occurred to me only yesterday why I can’t.

Not that I haven’t been productive. (Who’s reading this? Bill? My Mom? My publishers?)

I’m working super-hard, guys. Promise. Pretty much all the time. With promoting Letters for Scarlet, author marketing (whatever that means) and networking; not to mention laundry, dishes, groceries, cleaning. Lots of cleaning. Also I make lists of what I need to do each day.

What I need to do before Jack heads to Oregon.

By the way, I haven’t done any of the purchasing or packing.

Was that a collective gasp? Everyone fainting over my lack of preparation? It’s okay. I’ve earned it.

I’m a whiz at procrastination. I could’ve majored in it except I probably would’ve missed the deadline to change my major from English to Procrastination. And then I would’ve told everyone I really liked English more anyway.

(I could’ve minored in Rationalization.)

I don’t panic if I haven’t finished my Christmas shopping by December 23rd. I’ll wait until minutes before guests arrive to set out appetizers. I gauge the last possible minute I must begin a project for it to be a success.

(Not a TOTAL success, mind you; but at least not a failure.)

So yeah, I often hang by a thread, tell myself I do better under pressure. (This isn’t always true, but I say it anyway.)

Still. This one’s unusual. This procrastination seems foggy. I haven’t been writing anything new because my brain and heart are…on hold.

Not too full. It’s more like I’ve temporarily emptied them.

I don’t know how I’m going to feel when we board the plane for the state my firstborn will call home for the rest of this year and maybe always. I don’t know what it’ll be like to hug him goodbye and


I’ve been devouring posts at sites like Grown and Flown like a damn lunatic. (When I’m not working super-hard on other important stuff!) And what I’ve gathered is some parents are traumatized by college drop-offs. Others judge those who can’t let go.

I don’t see a lot of middle-ground but middle-ground feels like where I’d land. I just don’t know.

What’s the right answer? What will I do?

Am I normal?

A part of me no longer savors the countdown. Jack’s start date is as late as they come (September 26th) and I was happy and grateful to have him for weeks (a month, even) longer than some of my friends had their kids home.

But it’s becoming paralytic, the date always looming. As of right now, he’ll be home 11 more days. Am I soaking it up enough? What’s the right amount of soaking? Are we prepared for all this?

The answer is no.

Anticipation has frozen me.

I want to calculate the last possible minute I must begin to purchase, pack, prepare. But this is unknown territory.

I guess it won’t be unknown when Karly leaves next year. Unless it’s different dropping off your second. The youngest. Your baby. Oh, God!

Is it different?

She’s a senior now which seems impossible but isn’t.

She could be filling out college applications already. This, too, occurred to me yesterday. Then I started folding laundry. Then I shared an old blog post and some #tbt pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Then I purged junk from a cabinet full of Jack and Karly’s old schoolwork.

I think maybe I’m un-nesting.

I think maybe I’ll keep going this way until Jack and Bill and I fly away together to Oregon and then I fly back home with only Bill.

(And now, an interruption = not my fault.)

Jack came downstairs and I got up from the computer and talked to him about how last night went (out with his friends = good) and if he has to work tonight and the next four nights (yes = bad).

I offered to make him bacon and eggs (while I still can!) but he said he wasn’t too hungry and wanted a yogurt. Then he went back upstairs to shower and meet his friends. Again.

It’s 9:45. Karly will be in school for several more hours. Bill is at work.

I could write.

I should write.

But I’ll probably organize the pantry, make a grocery list. What can I skip buying in bulk since Jack won’t be here in 11 days?

Un-nesting. It’s a whole thing.

I don’t think I’m very good at it.

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14 thoughts on “When Your Duck Is Leaving the Nest

  1. I can’t remember what my original comment was, but it was something like: “What a long, drawn out heartbreak. It’s like a slow healing wound or something. Or a band-aid you’re pulling off, little by little, and you don’t want to rush it but part of you is like ‘just rip the damn thing off already.'” Or something. I’ll save a big hug for you next week.

  2. Oh Julie, you know I’ve been there my friend. It’s so hard! But also so wonderful. It’s a weird thing to have a baby and have him grow up so fast, yet so slow at the same time and then BAM! College! You’re done. It is paralyzing. But you’ll get through it. I promise. And yes, big hugs next week.

  3. You capture emotion so well with your words. No one is leaving the best yet but I’m definitely feeling the ache of my kids growing up. I feel for you and your un-resting. A huge hug to you.

  4. Um not the best, the NEST. Gah! I should proofread.

  5. I feel so deeply for you because I keep trying to take snapshots of my kids with my mind (and camera) because I believe you all when you say how fast it goes. And I don’t want it to be gone. But every change has brought a new gift and with you it will be the same. You are entering a new era with Jack and Karly but you are still all together in the whole experience of life.

  6. Courtney

    You are so normal in the middle ground! Proud of your boy and how ready he is for THIS – exactly what you prepared him for. But change is hard – it’s all new for him, and as much as we empathize with their excitement, it’s a loss for us. He’s going to be amazing – and you already are! Love you

  7. Laurel

    The struggle is real!!! You’re such a sweet mom, and this is so hard!
    This will be a great new chapter for your family!

  8. I didn’t know the Ducks didn’t start school yet! I’ve been out of touch with my sister and niece I guess. I assumed she’d started! Oy! I need to call my sister. My niece and your son should meet up! Gosh you another one going next year?

    I’m going to be at that stage before I know it, with my oldest now a sophomore and the other two not far behind. Hey, as long as you’re comfortable in your procrastination, it’s all good, and admirable actually. I’m the mother who forgets to turn in permission slips. I’m impressed you actually make grocery lists.

    Oh, Julie, all the best to you in this letting go and momentous, mothering milestone.

  9. It is just this, for me, anyway: a fog. I shake my head, hoping to clear it, and still everything is there without me even having to look; no backpack in the hall, no shoes to trip over in front of the bathroom, no hundred glasses of apple juice half-sipped arranged around the kitchen sink. It’s all there not to see, and I see it. (I love you, my friend)

  10. Diane

    Knowing you as I know you, you will be as good at un-nesting as you are at everything you set your mind to do. Your duck will thrive in his new environment because you have prepared him well. My shoulder is always nearby to lean on, any time you need it! XXXOOO

  11. I think you probably know this already but my feeling is – whatever it is for you, that’s what it is. Happy, sad, foggy in between – no one else gets to judge. What I can say from my massive four weeks of experience of having our firstborn gone off to college is that if Jack has picked the right place, you will hear it in his voice, and you will find yourself so happy for him that the fog may lift. It’s hard to stay stuck when they’re roaring ahead. I can’t wait to see what you do with the new, fertile space in your life.

    And parent’s weekend is probably only about 6 weeks after he leaves, anyway 😉

  12. I am having a hard enough time with Charlie starting preschool on Monday. You’re telling me they leave for college some day? Aw jeez.

    I hope the love I’m sending gets in through the fog, friend.

  13. I’ve only fleetingly thought about what it must have been like for my parents to drop me – the youngest – off at college and then head home. And I’ve shamefully barely thought about the fact that other than visits, I never really returned. I’ve lived here in Austin ever since and made my life here. And now I can’t imagine my kids doing that, although I’m sure I’ll understand if they do.

  14. I’m so glad you wrote about this and shared all the feelings! “un-nesting.” Maybe!

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