I don’t know when the first day of school is in our district this year. It’s not on my calendar nor my radar. When the school buses start to hold up traffic on Susquehanna Road at 7 am, that’s when I’ll know. Why? Because I’m an empty nester now. Jenna began her senior year of college a few weeks ago, and this weekend, we move Andrew into his dorm as he begins his college life.
YAY! It’s another life transition that I’m facing without a manual. While I am excited for them, I’m also sad this part of my life is over. Lately, depression has reared its ugly head and asked me questions like “Who am I without my kids?” and “What does my next chapter look like?” Answer: How the hell do I know?!
I’ve tried everything to tame the fear of the unknown, from retail therapy to real-life therapy, from journaling happy thoughts to crying in the car for no particular reason. Thanks to an amazing therapist and an incredibly supportive and loving husband, I’m learning it is okay to honor those low moments, but it’s also important to make plans, try new things, and stay busy.
In the coming months, I’ll have a lot to say about this empty nester business and how it’s going. For now, I’m staying positive and finding some silver linings. Here is what I’ve come up with so far:
- I don’t have to write my name, my husband’s name, our address, home phone number, cell phone numbers, work phone numbers, email addresses, and emergency contact information on dozens of forms (times two kids).
- I’m not writing multiple checks for pretzel days, picture days, field trips, or the school directory. Although, the checks are for much larger expenses now.
- Back to School nights, parent-teacher conferences, swim meets, dance classes, and track practices no longer need to be meticulously entered into my calendar. Carpools don’t need to be pre-arranged, and I am no longer held hostage by the school calendar. I can take a vacation in the middle of the Fall – and we are planning to! And the phrase “It’s a school night” is no longer an issue.
- This winter, we will not be rudely awakened by the sound of the house phone and mobile phones alerting us to school delays or snow days. Of course, I also won’t hear the cheering coming from the kids’ bedrooms as they celebrate having the day off.
- My workday won’t be sidelined by requests to drop off forgotten homework, textbooks, laptops, lunches, gym clothes, or swim bags.
- I don’t have to worry whether it’s an A day, B day, or any kind of block day. Not that I ever understood that system.
- The attendance office will no longer stalk me for an excused absence card. Who will they go after now that their most delinquent parent has moved on?
This list is a good start, but as I focus on the silver linings, I can’t help but see the things I’m going to miss most, like seeing their smiling (okay, often groggy) faces when they come downstairs for breakfast. Or talking about what happened that day at the dinner table. Instead of saying good morning to them, I’ll send them a text. And, I’ll go to bed wondering what they are doing instead of knowing they are in their bedrooms safe and sound. And yes, there is always FaceTime, but it isn’t the same. And yes, my son is going to school less than an hour away, but it isn’t the same. And yes, my daughter could move back home for a while after graduation, but it isn’t the same. Nothing is the same.
Welcome to my world. This is how my thoughts have fluctuated from happy to sad for most of the summer leading up to move-in day. I know change is supposed to happen, which is a good thing. I’ll embrace it. I’m excited to see where life takes them next, and I’m here for them when they need me. And they will. In the meantime, stay tuned for what the future holds for me – my life without a manual.