“Mom, what are you gonna do when Jenna and I are both away at college?“
This was the question that Andrew, our youngest child, posed to me as he stood in our kitchen wearing his red plaid pajama pants, making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I remember when I dropped him off for his first day of preschool. After leaving him for the first time, I went downstairs to the “Woohoo/Boo-hoo” brunch in the multipurpose room. This was the place for those who wanted to celebrate or cry about this momentous occasion. Some parents were ecstatic about their newly-found freedom and came for the mimosas before heading to the gym. Others sat around tables eating bagels and emptying boxes of Kleenex.
What am I going to do when they are both at college? Will I cry? Will I make myself a mimosa? Is there a third option? Because I’m somewhere in-between. Here is why:
Proud does not even begin to describe how I feel about both of my kids. I’ve watched them grow up and evolve into young adults. We instilled our morals and values into them and taught them right from wrong. They are kind and empathetic people. They have a thirst for knowledge and a love of travel and adventure. And they know how to do their own laundry.
What more could a mother ask for? Watching them take all of those skills and applying them in the real world is truly a joy. And, I take pride in knowing that I had something to do with it. So, yes, pour me a cocktail, and let’s celebrate.
And I’m excited to start a new chapter in my life. Will I finally write the book I keep talking about with family and friends? Will I get the chance to explore Europe for the first time in my life? Will I take a much-needed and well-earned girls’ trip or an extended vacation with my husband? The possibilities are endless. The world is my oyster, right?!
I’ve never really cared much for oysters. I’ve never tried one, in all honesty, but they don’t look all that appealing to me. They seem slimy and messy and don’t smell so great. This is exactly how I’m feeling about being an empty nester. It doesn’t seem like the delicacy everyone makes them out to be. And as a Jew, aren’t I supposed to avoid all shellfish? Pass me a tissue.
When we took Jenna to college, I was proud that I held it together as we set up her dorm room. It was during lunch that I started to feel the weight of the occasion. She wasn’t coming home with us. She was heading out on her own, and I would not be there to witness it – as I have all of the other chapters in her life. On the way to the car was when I lost it. The tears came streaming down my face. I didn’t even try to hide them. And now, I have to do this all over again with Andrew – except now – there is no third child to take care of at home.
Just Keep Swimming
Recently, I had a conversation with one of my neighbors about how much she liked being an empty nester. She gave me some pearls of wisdom. (Yes, I am trying really hard to stick with this metaphor…)
She said that it is so nice not to plan anything around when the kids are in school. She and her husband don’t have to worry about what to do with the kids when they want to go somewhere. Of course, I have a dog, but I got her point. And, she is right, this is a nice benefit. And we have done it before. When we sent both kids to overnight camp for a month, we went to Punta Cana. So, there you go.
In the meantime, Andrew still has his senior year ahead of him. There are lots of special occasions to look forward to in the near future. And for right now, while he is still home, I’m as happy as a clam.