Appreciating Life as you Live it Because the Empty Nest is Coming
Updated: Sep 6
As my nest emptied out, I found myself increasingly captivated by the essays on the Grown & Flown web site, which collects stories about parenting older kids. This summer, as I was leaving the tennis court, an idea for an essay about how tennis lessons fit into my relationship with my son hit me hard, and I ran home to write it. I was so thrilled when Grown & Flown told me they would publish it. And pay me for it too!
Unfortunately, they did take it down after a year or two when they were cleaning their website, so I am leaving the text here, because I love this story.
Every Wednesday Morning my Son and I had a Date at the Tennis Clinic
We make the same Wednesday morning drive every week during the summer.
You are young, you’re dragging me out of bed, already in your tennis whites, telling me that it’s time to leave. You have your clinic while I sit courtside with the other moms, waiting and watching. I drink my big iced coffee. I tinker with the crossword puzzle. I catch up on the gossip. Often, I look up at you during your lesson and watch you learn. It’s less tennis and more 20 kids chasing balls. But you always have your game face on, determined.
During my clinic, you sit on a bench by the court as the self-proclaimed ball-boy-slash-Mom’s-biggest-fan, intently watching me. It’s just a clinic, but you cheer me on like I’m Serena in the Wimbledon finals.
Sometimes, after lessons, we rally a bit and I always get a little frustrated--not that I’m so good, but will you ever play well enough so that we could seriously hit a little?
I wake up today. Wednesday. You’re in middle school now and play with the twelve year olds, which basically makes you “an adult now, Mom.” Your clinic now begins right after mine. I pack up your breakfast for you and drag you out of bed, already dressed in my tennis whites. We don’t live close enough for me to run home and get you after my clinic without you missing the start of yours, so you have to wait for me. A role reversal.
These are the Harry Potter years. Enough reading material to get you through many summers. You sit, eat, read. I still love having a little fan courtside, even though I assume that you are too absorbed with wizards, wands, and waffles to notice my game. But you always have a constructive comment about my play, or a little “way to go, Mom” at the end.
We low-five discreetly as we switch places.
During your clinic, I watch and see how your skills have grown. I know better than to cheer you on, even when you return the ball with maneuvers clearly deserving of the Davis Cup. I let one “Woo hoo!” slip out, and am thankful you don’t send a stop-you’re-embarrassing-me look my way. I pick up the crossword and smile. It’s already half completed.
After lessons, we rally a bit. It is fun. We are well matched. How nice it is to play with you.
Wednesday comes. You are a senior in high school and you’re able to drive yourself separately to clinic. I’m on the court stealing glances at the gate, hoping you wake up in time. You make yourself breakfast, I’m sure being careful not to drip any crumbs on your tennis whites. At the end of clinic, the other moms and I are playing doubles games as always. I hear “Nice hit, Mom.” I send a stop-you’re-embarrassing-me look your way. You laugh.
Sometimes you and I grab a few minutes between our lessons and we rally a bit. I always get a little frustrated--will I ever play well enough so that we could seriously hit a little?
Today, Wednesday, I walk from my car to the courts and think of you at home, sleeping the hard sleep of a college student on summer break. Some younger moms walk their very young children off the courts after that early-morning little-kid clinic. I look at their faces. Frustration. Most are hurried. I want to stop and shake them and shout, “Slow down! Appreciate the moment for what it is--a precious sliver of time, not just a gateway to the day’s next activity. It all goes so fast and will be gone in a blink. How can you not see that??”
Of course, I say nothing. I never saw it. And anyway, it would be just another example of me becoming the crazy lady in the supermarket who drools over babies.
Instead, I go home. Wait for you to wake up. Pop some waffles in the toaster. Glad you don’t have your internship today, because maybe we can put on our tennis whites and go hit some balls.