I Choose the Gradual Method

When my son Rocky went to college 5 years ago, his leaving home was a gradual thing. First he went to the local community college and then to a nearby university where he finished up. And he lived the first year at home. Last summer he moved very far away for graduate school. We’re talking, thousands of miles away. Like, from Vermont to California. It was hard, but not that hard. We had eased into it and he was 23 years old. It was time.

Fast forward to last week, my daughter Petunia went to college far, far away right off the bat. She hates the snowy northeast and decided to follow her brother to sunny CA. To the same school, in fact, though it’s not because he is there, and she wants to make sure the entire known world is clear on that. We flew her out there, set her up in her cell-like freshman dorm room, and then said good-bye, knowing we won’t see her again until Christmas.

If you ask me, I like the first option better – the gradual method. But no one asked me. Such is the life of an empty next mom.

So Far Away

My son is so far away from home. He moved to the DC area to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity. Obstacles and disappointments have surrounded him since his move as the job has not materialized as promised. However, he is able to see God’s hand in directing his life. That has given his dad and me a great deal of solace as we see our little boy becoming a man after God’s heart.

One of the most difficult things about my adults (I guess I can’t really call them children anymore, can I?), is the physical distance between us. Just this week my son experienced an earthquake and now he is hunkering down for a hurricane! He was born in the central rust-belt area of our country where thunderstorms and maybe tornado warnings are the worst weather events we experience. My mother-heart wants to protect him from these things still, but that is not what he needs. It is times like this that it is hard for me to let him go.

I used to say my goal in raising my kids was to work myself out of a job. It seemed so pithy and glib to say that when the kids were little. Ha! I’m finding it’s not so easy to be laid off from this particular job.

I Have a Choice Before Me

With the college boy home for his senior year, should I be hard-necked about all those rules he followed as a child (which he’s seemingly forgotten) or shall I make his last year (will this be his last year?) at home pleasant, with reduced stress for him, as he wades through a bit of depression and a heap of anxiety?

I had a discussion with my daughter regarding the overwhelming anxiety college students are experiencing regarding job prospects in today’s economic reality. I am reminded of this conversation when the college boy gets an all too often blank glaze in his eyes.

Will I be harming him for life if I simply choose to look past neglected chores? Will choosing to pick up his household slack in favor of a joyful greeting (painfully swallowing the curt response on the tip of my tongue) be wise or folly? Is the “love you mom’s” worth the lazy habits I’m ignoring? If I choose the stress-less scheme, will he leave the house in a year’s time with unrealistic expectations and with an entitlement complex or with appreciation?

I can hear my dear Empty Next friends advising me to negotiate a contract with him, detailing my set of expectations. The fatal problem with that idea is me: I don’t want to police a contract. Talk about stress!

I think I’ll be doing lots of tongue biting over the next months. Of course college-boy may surprise us all by not being a returned child at home, but by taking up the manly mantle. And wouldn’t that warm a mother’s heart?

Empty Nest, I see you up there, waiting!

When Jed and I got married, we had a ready-made family, as my then four-year-old son was obviously part of the deal. Consequently, we never had that time alone where it was just the two of us, which so many couples enjoy.

Over the years we’ve taken trips and had getaways, but we’ve rarely just had the place to ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve enjoyed our children immensely. We homeschooled and took family trips, we’ve gone to all the sporting events, choral presentations, awards banquets, and church Christmas pageants. We’ve taught our kids everything we know, and then some. We’ve savored our time with them.

But while we will miss their smiling (usually) faces around the dinner table each night, we also feel a bit like an engaged couple eagerly anticipating the honeymoon.

Our youngest is a senior in high school, so this time next year, in all likelihood, she will follow the path of her brother and sister, and go to college far away. This grieves us. But we also can’t wait. Such conflicting feelings.

The bottom line is that the kids SHOULD grow up and move away. It’s what we’ve raised them to do. In fact, we even made the huge mistake of telling them they could do anything and go anywhere, which might have something to do with the fact that the older two are in school nearly 3000 miles away.

But the marriage will go on. This is as it should be. And oh the fun we’ll have once they’re all gone…!!

First Day of School…

Remember the first day of school?  Shiny faces, shiny notebooks, shiny photos by the mailbox?  Or, for you home-schoolers, the traditional jeering from the window in our pajamas as the shiny bus kids walked by?

Not this year.  This year, I was 4,000 miles away.  On Thursday, two public schooled kids left (late) for middle and high school, on their bicycles in 90* weather, with sandwiches in their pockets and wearing God-knows what, carrying last year’s binders in their brother’s old backpack (or something like that).  The college freshman took their pictures in the garage – for that grainy look, obviously – and no one is sure what the teachers think.  No one is asking.

The college students might have some of their books, and apparently attended some classes today.  Fr’sh made and forgot a lunch, and then sat around campus for four hours waiting for his third class of the day… which was canceled.  He did not get his I.D. sticker, and he did not check to see if the missing book might be at the library.  He did ride home in 90* weather.  Re-Fr’sh (the graduate starting his second degree) worked, schooled, rehearsed, worked again, and then came home.

I am so glad no one needed me.  It is horrible that no one needed me.  You be the judge.

It’s a Whole New World

We’re parents of young adults. We’ll introduce ourselves more fully over the next couple of months, but for right now, what you need to know is that we’re all a bunch of moms trying to figure out this season of parenting. Nobody warned us. Nobody breathed a word to us about how HARD this season would be. Truth is, we are trying our best to find our way.