I have dreaded it for yearsmy nest becoming empty. From the first time I looked at each of my heavenly, newborn bundles, wrapped so perfectly in a hospital bassinet, I thought to myself I’m someone’s mom, now. My life and identity were changed forever.

What an awesome responsibility it was to me at the time. I knew at that moment my life would be filled with millions of these little moments, but also that ultimately, I would be left with two grown sons and an empty nest.

I figured these moments would pass slowly (and sometimes they did pass painfully slow) and that I would cherish every one of them. And I think I did. I just wasn’t prepared for the swiftness at which they passed.

Where did it all go? I didn’t think I would be sitting here in my quiet, empty house.

A house that used to be filled with all of the life two little boys could bring. I very much enjoyed the noise and chaos those two little boys brought into my life. And now, I’m sitting here wishing for those moments to come around just one more time.

Small, warm bodies climbing into my lap for cuddles, and chubby, little fingers grabbing hold of my hand.

The sweet smell of my toddler boy’s hair.

When my youngest and most accident-prone child cracked his head open with the claw part of the hammer.

When my oldest son climbed into my lap with lipstick all over his face, denying he had gotten into mama’s makeup.

Lying with each of my boys in their big boy beds, singing “You Are My Sunshine” until they fell asleep.

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Both boys busily going about destroying everything in our home, Sharpie marked walls, and toys EVERYWHERE.

Squeaky voices asking for the thousandth time for yet another light saber or LEGO set as we try to avoid passing the toy aisle at Walmart.

Frustrated screaming and stomping coming from my teenage son playing his beloved video games in his bedroom.

Even the sullen sighs and eye rolls from my teenagers.

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All of the times I exasperatedly thought is this ever going to end? as my full-on, all-boy sons brought me something icky or came to me covered head to toe with all the dirt they could find in our backyard. Will I ever get a quiet moment to myself?

How do you go from being a mama to being . . . what now? What is this? What am I now?

I guess it’s a different kind of mama. I’m a mama standing in the background now, watching her young men continue to grow and find their way in this world.

I miss it all and think about it often in my empty nest. I think about all of this as I count down the daysit’s two now until I pick my baby up from the airport. He’s coming home for Christmas from his first semester at college and a new life in another cityaway from his mama.

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I am just so ridiculously blessed and proud of the men who stand before me. I look down the road to the milestones remainingbecoming husbands and fathersand I am so excited. But for now, I will sit here in my empty nest and try to get used to the deafening sound of quiet surrounded by the sweet memories of my boys growing into men.

Diana Gennaro

Diana Gennaro works in the field of nursing administration and is a mom of two grown sons ages 22 and 19.