Cries, hugs, and goodbyes. It’s time to send your children off to college. After years of driving, cooking, comforting and parenting, they finally leave. Just like that. Well, this is not a blog on being a parent and dealing with your kids leaving you. Because guess what? I have no kids. I am a 16-year-old. But, I can relate to the concept of “empty nesting.” Empty nesting is the stage in a family’s cycle when the children have grown up and left home to begin their own adult lives. Yet what people always fail to put into the equation is the notion of empty sibling nesting.
For my whole life, I have been the baby of the family.
I have one older brother named Rajesh. Even as I grew up, I could still feel like a kid every now and then because I had my big brother to annoy and hang out with. I had the benefits of being the youngest sibling and the opportunity to learn from my older sibling’s successes and mistakes. When my brother left for college, I was just entering high school. As soon as my brother got an acceptance letter from McGill, I knew my life was about to change forever. My best friend was actually leaving me. I was the last bird in the nest. A few weeks prior to dropping my brother off at McGill, my family went on vacation. Rajesh and I were sitting in the hotel room together, when he turned to me and said, “You realize that this is like our last family vacation before I go to college.” I laughed and shrugged it off, but I never really told him how it made me feel. I was not prepared for such a change.
I laughed and shrugged it off, but I never really told him how it made me feel. I was not prepared for such a change.”
Dropping off my brother was probably one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. It was really happening. I was not prepared to return home with just my parents. The family unit was drastically changing. In the family unit, there are two teams. The parents and the siblings. My whole roster was leaving. I was the only player in the field. Of course, my whole family sticks together, but it was odd having the balance completely shifted. It was odd having only three places at the dinner table. It was as if we were waiting for the messiah to come to dinner each night. It was tough for both my parents to let go of their first child. For my mom especially, this change was incredibly difficult.
Being the youngest and having your siblings leave is not an easy thing.
I used to joke that I would tear the walls down of my brother’s room, and make one giant awesome pad for myself. But really, I would never do such a thing. The change is not easy, for both parents and younger siblings. I do not want to get too sappy and speechy with you, but while siblings do fight, they really love each other. Younger siblings like myself can learn a lot from their older siblings. Having this support group suddenly leave is life-altering, but knowing that you will see them again over holiday breaks is comforting.
The main takeaway here is that younger siblings are also affected by someone leaving the nest. Older siblings: comfort your younger siblings when you leave to college or move away. You probably don’t realize the enormous impact that you have on their lives.