After reading my blog, a friend asked me "is the empty nest weird?" And it struck me that weird is the perfect word to describe my life without my kids in the house. Not bad, not lonely, not sad, not even empty...but definitely weird. Its as big of a change in our lives as it was when our first child was born - nearly everything we had been doing was no longer relevant. Our points of reference, our focus, it all shifted. Although the parenting never ends - your kids never stop needing your guidance, even if they don't know it all the time - the day-to-day-ness of it is over. For me, as a stay at home mom, the change was as subtle as a ton of bricks falling on my head. BOOM your full-time job is DONE!!!
To start, its so incredibly clean. I mean, other than a little dust here and there, there's no more random stuff lying around - wet towels, empty water bottles, dirty dishes, just to name a few - these things have disappeared from my house. Its orderly, organized, and neat, which makes me so happy, I can't even tell you. But its weird, because the detritus of my kids lives, though incredibly irritating, was somehow comforting to me - they were here, and this was proof of it. Its as if, other than in their bedrooms, they never lived here at all.
Also, its so quiet. No loud music, no blaring tvs. I know this sounds obvious, but its really symbolic, too - when they come home for vacations, there's a rise in the decibel level that is, in a way, shocking. And this leads to another thing that I've come to realize - I've definitely gotten older. Obvious, right? But remember back to when you were young, and think about how there was always some noise in your world - I mean, who ever drove in their car without the radio on when we were young? I savor the quiet, though I know others in my situation can't stand this part - it feeds into my appreciation of solitude. I don't feel the need to fill the quiet with noise...at least not all the time.
There's a lot less people around. If my son Adam, the last to leave the nest, had friends over, which he did A LOT, it wasn't just one or two. His group of 8 traveled in a pack, and if one was here, they all were. I love Adam's friends...they were a fixture in our lives all through high school, and I enjoyed nothing more than making a big pan of baked ziti for them and watching them demolish it. If there's anything I miss, its having all those boys come in and out of my house, ransacking my kitchen, sitting in our jacuzzi, and just laughing and yelling at each other. Peter and I spent many a night sleeping with earplugs when they were here, and there were countless mornings when they were sleeping on every available bed and sofa.
I buy way less food. Enough said.
The disconnect from the community is probably the weirdest thing of all. After years of volunteering for every activity they participated in, it was a huge loss to suddenly not be part of the football boosters or the show choir parents group. That was, for me, the most rewarding part of being a parent - seeing my children working hard at something they loved, then watching them do it - Adam on the offensive line, Katie singing and dancing. It was SO MUCH FUN. I miss that a lot. And the truth is, as soon as they graduate from high school, you're completely finished with it all. I have to say, though, whenever we see parents out and about wearing "Los Al Softball" or "Los Al Football" t-shirts, we have to laugh...it was kind of ridiculous, how completely we were consumed by our children's activities, but that's just the way things are done around here. Which leads me to the weirdest thing of all:
|Happy 22nd Anniversary! 8/26/11|
We have a lot of free time.
Our weekends are wide open - free to do whatever we want to do with hours previously spent watching, coaching, driving, feeding, cheering and adoring our kids. You'd think we'd be running here and there, doing all the things we never got to do - movie matinees, museum trips, walks on the beach - who knows. But the truth is, most of the time, we like being home, in the clean, quiet house, sometimes not talking for hours, but just knowing that its the two of us - and its really, really nice. Weird, but nice.