The coming days mark the end of another annual migration; a diverse flock has converged on Old Campus and alighted. Finally, the class of 2020 has arrived and is here to stay. We crossed boxes on calendars, watched phone timers dwindle and dreamed about these fateful days of independence. But now that they are finally upon us, as we eagerly settle into our new homes, I ask that we, the class of 2020, give due attention to a more subdued yet still meaningful transition: our parents returning home to an empty nest.
When real fledglings gather the strength to leave their established homes, there is no avian-grief, no bird-heartbreak, no poignant chirp of emotion — just flight. Unfortunately for humans, our own flight is never this simple. Many parents are currently experiencing the loneliness, isolation and pain associated with our migration, a phenomenon known as Empty Nest Syndrome.
Even if an “Empty Nest” sounds foolish, keep in mind that the emotions of our parents are serious and genuine. Though we are embarking on the exhilarating adventure of college, our guardians are disembarking on the similarly fulfilling journey of parenthood. Just as they protected and ensured our well-being, we should return the favor and help do the same for our parents.
In a basic sense, Empty Nest Syndrome is a role reversal. The parents we relied upon from birth now need our support more than ever. Our departure abruptly alters nearly two decades of purpose and identity, making parents more vulnerable to stress, depression and anxiety. Though it is most associated with single mothers, the Syndrome can be common for all types of parents. It seems that by functioning as our guideposts, illuminating the path to our current identities, parents give away part of themselves.
It is imperative that we as new college students, the immediate cause of this affliction, give our parents their deserved respect and consideration. We have an obligation to call our guardians, send them a text or two and keep them abreast of our progress. We should ensure they understand this change to be positive for both parties; an empty nest brings greater opportunity to parents and children alike. No act of contact is too small; any type of communication can be an ease to parental woes, as well as a strong force to alleviate Empty Nest Syndrome.
From a more reflective view, the emergence of Empty Nest Syndrome confronts us with our own mortality. Today we are the inflictors of our parents’ pain, but tomorrow, we may become the afflicted ones, tearfully watching our future offspring leave the nest. When that day comes, how will we want our children to treat us? Will they have the ability to understand our complex emotions? These questions should spur a realization and compel us to set a precedent now: to end the lack of awareness and understanding before the last freshman parent leaves New Haven.
We need to recognize Empty Nest Syndrome not because it makes us better children, but because it makes us better adults. Uniquely poised between adolescence and adulthood, we are mature enough to understand that this new stage in our lives impacts more than just ourselves.
Before fully engrossing ourselves into the kaleidoscopic world of college, we must keep in mind the parents who brought us here. We cannot allow our absence from their lives to serve as a springboard for pain and depression; rather, we can eliminate sadness and successfully guide them through this challenge. After all, they deserve our effort — those who dutifully wore many hats, acting as mentors, drivers, helpers and confidants — always encapsulating the essence of being a parent.
Ryan Gittler is a freshman in Timothy Dwight College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .