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When the nest gets empty

Parents and kids feel joy and sadness

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Aug 19/02) - It's a double-edged sword when the kids finally pack up and leave home.

Feelings range from fear and excitement on the part of the youngsters, to the sadness and exhilaration mom and dad feel.

It's tough to sort out the conflicting emotions and even harder sometimes to admit to the joy bubbling beneath the surface.

While there are thousands of Internet sites geared at helping parents deal with the experience, some families readily embrace the future and the knowledge that the nest is empty, at last.

Take the Kingdon household in Iqaluit. As 17-year-old Fauna packs her possessions into cardboard boxes, preparing to head to the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg later this month, mom Eliza watches from the sidelines and waits.

It's not that she wants her youngest daughter to leave or that she has plans for Fauna's room. Eliza has enough space of her own. But, after attending to every need of three children for some 25 years, Eliza is about to have a whole lot more time on her hands.

"It's a new stage in our lives," said Eliza. "Now I can come and go as I please and my husband can, too. We'll do some fun things, just him and I, like go on a cruise."

"I'm free in a way."

Fauna watches her mother and rolls her eyes.

"It sounds like she's going to have more fun than I am," said Fauna.

"I've been here for 12 years and before that I was on a farm so I'm hardly a city girl," she said. "But Winnipeg will be different. I'm looking forward to that."

Following words of advice from her friends already away at university, Fauna said she knows not to spend all her time eating in restaurants and partying. She's said she is eager to make new friends and discover new aspects of life.

But beneath the easy humour and teasing that flies back and forth, it's obvious the family will miss each other.

"I've always been home for the kids. I chose not travel because I wanted to be here for them," said Eliza.

"There are things I will miss now. The phone will be quieter and I love to cook for Fauna and her friends. I've been catering to her. That's what I call the empty nest syndrome -- I no longer have to care for her needs."