This week I packed up the youngest, along with most of his belongings, and the two of us took a road trip to settle him in at college.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that the “empty nest” phenomenon is real. Never did I think it was possible to simultaneously feel so much joy and so much sadness about the exact same thing.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

During the trip we listened to books, rehashed old stories, talked about hopes, talked about fears and generally just enjoyed each other’s company. During the companionable silences, I replayed in my mind several memories of his growing up.

Amid the baseball games, soccer games, movie nights and such, the days of the Lego robotics team were some of my most favorite times.

I am not a coder. Programming Lego robots is not my forte, but I am a mom. So, when my son joined the team and they needed a parent coach, I joined, too. Fortunately for all concerned, the faculty coach was a whiz at coding and I was left to help research the tasks, brainstorm solutions and whip up the fancy poster boards. Not to brag, but our presentations were pretty schnazzy.

I really loved those days of practice runs and team throw-downs. I even loved the multi-hour-long rides on the school bus to day-long competitions held inside poorly lit auditoriums. It was bonding. Lego robotics has a soft spot in my soul.

My own personal memories collided with current events this week when I heard about some members of a celebrated all-girls robotics team escaping from Afghanistan.

The team as a whole earned worldwide recognition for their efforts in competition from years past. According to CNET, “During the coronavirus pandemic, the team worked on a low-cost ventilator using old car parts. The design, inspired by work on an emergency ventilator out of MIT, is low-tech, so it can be replicated around the world with local products. For that contribution the team made Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list this year.”

These amazing young women were, obviously, in great peril as the Taliban assumed control over their nation. In terror for their lives, as well as their intellectual freedom, they fled to Qatar.

As I write, reports are emerging of women in Afghanistan being turned away from their universities and from their places of work. They are reportedly being forced to hide in their homes and to hide under a chadaree covering their body and face.

The members of the robotics team who managed to escape are fighting for their futures. They are fighting for their selves. They are fighting for their lives. They exemplify all that their nation stands to lose as the Taliban takes control and forces women into subservience and hiding.

I am experiencing the sorrow of watching the ones I love most leave the nest to find their futures. It hurts. It is such a wonderful and joyful pain and such a privileged pain. My heart truly breaks for the mothers who are experiencing the sorrow of helping their children flee for their lives, or worse, who are watching their children’s future disappear.

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