‘Til Death Do You Parent
We had a really big nest…a perfect nest for raising three rambunctious boys and an equally rambunctious dog. Home was a two hundred year old farmhouse with four bedrooms and staircases to nowhere and five acres for basketball and hide and seek and birthday parties. And we had a swimming pool. One morning I found a duck splashing in the pool. On another I found a barbecued chicken…a remnant from a party my son gave w ithout my permission when I wasn’t looking. Then, also without my permission, and also when I wasn’t looking, he pulled another unacceptable stunt. He grew up.
My middle son always wanted to be just like his big brother, which was okay with me as long as that involved playing the same sports. It stopped being okay when he emulated my firstborn by growing up as well. Without ample warning we had two extra bedrooms and a whole lot of quiet on the weekends.
My youngest son’s life is all about music, a passion that doesn’t require the five acres we used for manhunts and football games. We found ourselves rattling around in our big old house, and paying huge and unnecessary bills for home and garden maintenance. I left kicking and screaming, but I left.
Now the three of us and our dog live in a townhouse three blocks from Main Street. We don’t own as much as a square foot of sod. Surprisingly, we are ecstatic. Even the dog is happy because I walk him twice a day into town. The art store owner leaves doggie treats on the front step. This lifestyle isn’t half bad.
But son number three leaves for college in September and our beloved dog is old and sick and has to be put down.
That lifestyle, the sonless, dogless, chaos-free life is for old people, not for me and my husband. We’re still twenty-two, aren’t we?
I knew I was going to have to write about this. I’ve always dealt with the transitions in my life by writing about them. I wrote a book about being the only woman in a houseful of boys. I wrote a book about surviving your child’s college application process. The time had come to write about the empty nest. I was ready to pour my heart out about the impending loneliness, the urge to look backward, the fear of aging, and finally, the acceptance. I was going to write about coping strategies, the first one being…plan a trip.
In November I began to plan a trip to France for just the two of us after the baby leaves for college. One look at the Provence website and the empty nest couldn’t come soon enough. I am ready for it! In fact, I’m chomping at the bit. No more worries about what to make for dinner. I’m going to have duck confit in Arles. No more staying up nights waiting to hear a son’s key in the lock. I’m going to be the one coming home in the wee hours now. Without kids at home I’m going to buy sexy lingerie. The empty nest? BRING IT ON!
That was in November. In December son number one and his wife called. They found a perfect little nest, but are a little short for a down payment. Son number two called. He’s been in commercial real estate for three years. The market is in the toilet and he’s moving back home to regroup. And son number three hasn’t even left yet! I continue to parent, and will be parenting, I realize, for the rest of my life. This is what my blog will be about…Parenting Part II…Eighteen and Beyond. The nest may be empty, but I know now that if you have children living somewhere on this planet, you are forever a parent. Look for me in these pages to share experiences, insights, research, links to related sites, and hopefully, humor, as I negotiate the rocky terrain of bringing up grown ups.
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