With one our children off to college in Chicago and the other not far behind while maintaining a very full extracurricular and social life, Dave and I are getting our first taste of what it’s like to be empty nesters.
It’s all happening a bit too quickly for my liking, and I wasn’t really prepared to fill my newfound free time. I’m doing my darnedest not to fill it with work responsibilities and household chores, but that’s taking a real conscious effort.
Despite some sporadic bouts of weepiness the first few days after we dropped off our eldest this fall, I’d say I’ve done an admirable job of avoiding the so-called “empty nest syndrome,” defined as a feeling of grief and loneliness parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time.
It helps that our son has been responsive to e-mail and text messages and even the occasional Facebook live video chat – except, of course, when the line of questioning turns to how he’s doing in his classes, if he’s making new friends and if he’s eating anything besides the graham crackers and peanut butter I left in his dorm room.
Almost daily text messages help keep us connected, although they aren’t always friendly.
To my gentle reminder for him to get a haircut, he said, “I don’t need a nag from 360 miles away.”
And to my innocent observation of “Busy day of classes today, looks like,” he replied, “STOP STALKING ME.”
With frost in the forecast, we sent him a picture of the inside of his truck, which we had filled with a couple large pumpkins and pots of mums. This was shortly after his sister had re-decorated their shared bathroom and begun using a corner of his bedroom for storing her stuff.
He texted back a rather stern: “NOW STOP THAT!”
But for the most part, our conversations have been cordial. I give you these actual text messages from my 19-year-old:
“About to try laundry. Any pointers before I try my luck?”
By the time I saw this text and called him, he already was well on his way on a load of whites. To my knowledge, all went well.
One evening about supper time, I got this message: “Ya know, the angel food cake here is pretty solid, but the portion size … nowhere near the size I’m used to.”
Grandma and I leaped to the rescue. Within the week, he had two huge slices of angel food cake plus two over-sized chunks of frosted chocolate cake in which to indulge.
I’ve been told that I will really enjoy the smaller laundry pile, lower grocery bill (offset, of course, by college expenses) and ability to keep the house clean for longer than five minutes.
But the best part really is knowing that we’ve equipped our children with the necessary tools to make their own way in the world and jet off to new, exciting adventures.
“Seeing them mature and appreciate the home they grew up in and the parents who raised them is heartening, as is hearing about all their new experiences,” says the website grownand flown.com.
In the meantime, texts like this one, received a couple weeks back, really help put a mom’s mind at ease: “I’m so good at this school thing.”
In our kids’ absence, Dave and I have begun trying to recall what it was like to be a twosome.
Remind me, what did we used to talk about at the dinner table before meals became an exercise in trying to get our children to consume even just a nibble of some sort of green, leafy vegetable and finish their milk?
Talk of politics, weather and jobs only goes so far. We’ll have to get more creative so we don’t bore each other to tears at breakfast. At least we have a couple more years to perfect our conversational skills before kid No. 2 flies the coop, too.