Empty Nested {Almost}

On Saturday we dropped my 13-year-old off with friends; he’s going to vacation with them this week.

And yesterday we dropped my 10-year-old at overnight camp for the week.

camp

Which leaves us at home with only our 7-year-old.

It is eerily quiet in the house without the usual bickering, slamming of doors, friends knocking up, and general hubbub that accompanies a family of five.

Is this a taste of my life to come?

Everyone says it goes so fast, you’ll blink and suddenly the kids are gone. I believe it.

* * *

I saw a young mom at the pool the other day. I watched in amusement as she chased her 2-year-old around the picnic benches for about 5 minutes before she finally wrestled him to the ground and fastened him into his life jacket — which soon came right back off.

My husband and I sat on our recliners watching the circus as it played out before us and had a good laugh at her expense.

Meanwhile, our kids were all happily splashing in the pool, jumping off the diving board and whooshing down the colorful slides — parental supervision no longer necessary at their ripe old ages of 7, 10 and 13.

jump

We remember the “terrible twos” quite well, thankyouverymuch. But they are far behind us now.

* * *

Later when it was time for us to go home, I rounded up the troops and gathered my things. Each child calmly gathered his and her own belongings, and we started to head out just as another young mom was exiting the baby pool.

She had a baby in one arm, and she was holding a toddler in her other hand while dictating to a third child to come back to their seats. Her husband was trailing along behind with a fourth small child in tow.

The mom looked exhausted, but still somehow jolly. Our eyes met, and I felt the need to reassure her somehow. I smiled and said kindly, “It gets easier, I promise!”

She stopped and sighed and returned my smile. “I’d just be happy if they’d SLEEP!” she declared.

“Oh, they will,” I assured her.

“Sure,” she replied with a chuckle. “But by then we’ll just be up all night worrying.”

I laughed and looked at my straggly gang of pre-adolescents and said, “Yeah, well, you’ll get a slight reprieve before that!”

* * *

I’ve been told by older and wiser mom friends that I’m living in the golden years of parenthood right now — I’m past the sleepless nights of infanthood and the harried days of toddlerhood and the torment of potty training. But I have a ways to go before I lay awake at night worrying about teenagers out running the roads.

I admit, life is pretty good right now. I get a full night’s sleep almost every night. We take our kids to restaurants without hopping up every 3 minutes to cut someone’s food or accompany someone to the bathroom. They can dress themselves, toilet themselves, do their own homework and clean up after themselves — not that they choose to do so without much haranguing and cajoling, but that’s another issue entirely. I usually know where they are sleeping and don’t worry about them doing something stupid and coming to harm when I’m not there to protect them.

Except for this week. It’s weird not having them under my roof, not being able to assure myself with a quick peek into their rooms that they are alive and well. I know they are both in highly supervised environments, but it’s still not easy to give up parental control. I dread the day when they’re out partying with teenage friends or away at college without responsible adult supervision.

I might enjoy the peace and quiet, but there’s something unsettling about not knowing exactly where your kids are.

That said, I’m looking forward to a week with less noise and bickering. I know both kids are where they want to be, and I’m happy they’re getting these opportunities.

Meanwhile I have plenty to do to get ready for our vacation next week. Between the laundry, the packing, the cleaning, preparing meals and getting two week’s worth of work done in one, I know this week will fly by and my family will be back together on Saturday in all its glory. Maybe I’ll have a new appreciation for all the ruckus three kids provide.

And now I’m going to brew another cup of coffee and enjoy a few more minutes of serenity while my 7-year-old has the dog and the TV all to herself! Ahh… bliss!

Comments

  1. says

    I’m in the sweet spot, too. My kids are 8 and 14 (a late bloomer and still not interested in much more than video games) and I admit that this is my favorite parenting period thusfar. Now if they would just stop teasing and fighting with each other…

  2. says

    Oh the years ahead don’t have to be dreaded! My youngest is thirteen, 17 year old, 22 and 26 year old… The conversations in the home become much more brain stimulating, you get to see the fruits of your labor and you get to feel such strong pride when they make good decisions. Of course, you also have to deal with the fact that they don’t realize their brain grows until about 24-25, but when that happens and you get to see all those wires connect and them realize so many things you told them were right,,, aaahhh waiting for that day with my 22 year old daughter right now! Wouldn’t trade a moment of this!

  3. says

    These are such interesting thoughts, the various stages of parenthood. I think which period you find to be “the golden years” really depends on which age group of kids you enjoy. I love being around high school kids. I enjoy relating with them and talking with them. So for me, the high school years were generally enjoyable. Our kids really didn’t give us worries about partying/drinking/being irresponsible. We were still basically “in charge” of them b/c they were living under our roof. And that’s why college is such an adjustment. In a flash, they are suddenly responsible for their own decisions, and they don’t have to ask, inform, or involve you. After a bit, I found myself not thinking about my college kids Every Single Day, every hour. I let it go. I assumed no news was good news. I realized that they were off living their lives just as I had done in college, without a lot of thought for my parents :)

    Do enjoy these years — these are the memory years. When your kids are little, you are so weary you’re too tired to be actively making memories and telling yourself to remember. In high school, your kids will be GONE so much of the time; your family won’t be physically together. These years are the ones when you can do thing together, make family inside jokes that last for decades, bond together. The bonds you make now must last for a lifetime after they leave. I get the impression you’re doing a Very good job in that department!

  4. Susan says

    14 year old in the house here…..and she has only been home for 8 days this month! (road trip with Dad, a week at Grandma’s, church camp, etc.). I miss her so much. She will be a freshman this year and we are really getting a glimpse of the empty nest syndrome. We have always been family oriented and made it a priority to be together, but the change I am seeing most is in my husband. He used to ignore my requests for him to come work out with me and he had let lots of hobbies and interests slip away. He has picked up his golf clubs again and now we work out together.

    I am glad you are enjoying all of these years..and glad you earned your right to sit poolside with a book!

  5. says

    I think you are spot on with your assessment of the elementary school years being the “golden years” of parenting in terms of relative ease and comfort. I also love Mary Kathryn’s (#5 above) term the “memory years.” But the bonds she mentioned are probably even more important than the memories.

    I have my almost-19-year-old home from college for the summer, and my 16-year-old is gone for a month of engineering camp. Those bonds we solidified and values we instilled when they were youngsters are what keep me from losing a whole lot of sleep now that they are teens/young adults. I’m not fraught with worry when they are away from home because I have faith in the foundation of morals and values we gave them.

    The hardest part at this stage of their lives is standing back and allowing them to make their own mistakes. It was SO much easier to swoop in and fix everything with a band-aid and a kiss!

  6. says

    Ah yes! Those were the days… LOL Our kids are 22, 21, and 19. Only one is at home (moved back home for now…) I agree with others who have told you similar – these are your best mentally-rested years. I know we always worry, but the worry does change as they grow older. I find myself always imagining the worse, that I’m going to get a call that one of them has been in an accident, etc. I keep telling myself that I need to stop that, but it’s hard. So yes, enjoy your well-rested sleep now!! :o)

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