One week from now, my husband and I will have our first taste of empty nesting as two boys head off to college and the third continues to look for work in California. Friends keep asking us how we feel about this big change in our lives, because they know how involved we’ve been in all of our kids’ activities.
I feel a little guilty every time I clap my hands and say, “We can’t wait!” Okay, we actually have mixed feelings, but the uppermost feeling right now is anticipation. I’m going to redecorate the boys’ bathroom and make it mine, because it has a bathtub in it while ours has a single shower. (Tempting as it is to make it “girly” just to annoy them – pretty flowers and rainbows, anyone? – I’m practicing restraint.) We will no longer spend our evenings and weekends ferrying kids to their various school events or attending their games and concerts. We’re looking forward to lower food, gas, and utility bills, and the clutter around here will be cut in half. Sure we’ll miss the little blighters’ faces and voices, but we’re both proficient at texting and Facebook, so we know they’ll be in touch (e$pecially when they need $omething).
And it isn’t like we didn’t know this day was coming. It should be the goal of all parents to work themselves out of their jobs, so to that end we began encouraging independence as our boys approached adolescence. This meant we were no longer the centers of their lives, controlling every aspect and monitoring every action. When our oldest was 11, we began leaving him and his brothers home alone while we ran to the grocery store. We worked up to leaving them for a weekend when the older two were in high school. This meant they had to know how to cook, do chores, get the mail, and secure the house at night – all without being reminded (though Dad did call home to check on the security).
We also expected them to call and make their own appointments and to get themselves to those appointments once they could drive. By the time they graduated from high school, each boy was capable of living on his own, from doing his own laundry to preparing his own meals to refilling his own prescriptions.
The side benefit for us-the-parents was that less time spent taking care of the kids meant more time spent with each other. Saturdays became our breakfast date days, followed by running errands. The boys knew they were welcome to join us if they got up, but most often they opted to sleep in. Once they were up, they’d call to find out what chores they needed to complete before they could play video games. We’d come home to find bathrooms cleaned, floors vacuumed, dishes done – and freshly-showered boys happily wending their way through cyber world adventures.
So as we find ourselves with no children left at home and only each other for company, it won’t be that much of a shock. We really are looking forward to it, especially since we realize we could be with just each other for another 30 years or so! Besides, we’re not really alone – excuse me, I have to go. One boy is texting and the other wants to chat on Facebook. . .
(Please ignore the laughter in the background. It’s my friends whose young adult children have left the house – only to move back in with the folks a few months or years later. They keep trying to warn me!)