So maybe you're an empty nester for the first time, and maybe you're feeling a little nostalgic -- or maybe you're crying a river of tears that reaches from your living room to your kid's dorm.
As I watched my youngest packing boxes (so many boxes!) to head back to college for his senior year, I felt a mixture of Momma pride -- he's all grown up... almost -- and a tinge of the empty nest blues, yet again.
I guess it never ends -- but it does get easier. I've grown to love the empty nest, and so will you.
In the meantime, take a look at this list of 25 things that I haven't missed about being the parent of school-aged children. Maybe it will help you to appreciate your empty nest, even just a little bit.
- Filling out the same forms with the same information every.single.year. Maybe it's different now, but back in the day (um, that would be 2010), in my school district, we still had to fill them out by hand. Most in duplicate, a few in triplicate.
- Writing checks for: lunch tickets, books, fees, donations, classroom supplies, bus passes, ID cards, PTA memberships.
- Writing more checks for: booster clubs, activity fees, uniforms, costumes, yearbooks, overdue fines, cookie dough, gift wrap.
- Making lunches and then having the lunches come home in the backpacks, uneaten (I just wanted chips, mom).
- Carpools. Carpools. Carpools. Did I mention carpools?
- Waking my son up for school every morning for 13 years. Every morning. Yes, I was that mom. He gets himself up now that he's in college. We're so proud.
- Shopping for school supplies that no one ever used, like those pink erasers and endless packages of 3-whole punch lined paper. Plus the supplies for the classroom, like Kleenex and sanitizing gel. Where did all that lottery money go, anyway?
- Buying two dozen mechanical pencils for my son who promptly lost them all or gave them away within 48 hours of starting school. Every year. You'd think I would have learned.
- Buying clothes for my daughter that she wore once and never again. A few weeks into the school year, she would default to a school sweatshirt and jeans, hair in a messy bun, more often than not.
- PTA meetings. Painful. But the guilt of not going was even more painful. And now I look back and think "why?"
- Small talk in the parking lot waiting to pick up your kid with the mom whose kid is better than yours at everything. You know who she is.
- Back-to-school night. Did anyone really want to be there? Well, maybe the new teachers. And the parents of the kids who do everything better than yours do.
- Parent-teacher conferences. The icky feeling that you're being judged because your kid isn't perfect. Although that feeling passed after about 2nd grade.
- Annual check-ups. Shots. More forms to fill out.
- Driving by the school to see if my kid was one of the kids walking along the fence, alone, while the other kids played with each other. Happily that never was the case, though I checked periodically.
- Head lice. Yep, that happened.
- Smelly sports uniforms that had to be washed every day. The football uniform was particularly delightful.
- Middle-school angst and drama. Oh the heartache.
- Colds, coughs, flus.
- Auditions, try-outs, contests, elections, prom kings and queens. The never-ending popularity contest and competitions.
- Waiting to be asked to prom/winter formal. Asking a girl to prom/winter formal. Not me, of course. My kids.
- First day jitters and senioritis. Senioritis should be an actual illness in the DSM-III.
- College applications, essays, application fees. The common app, submit buttons, extra-curriculars, teacher recommendations, PSATS, SATS, ACTS, SAT IIs, Merit Scholars, valedictorians, legacies, financial aid, deadlines, safety schools, reach schools, match schools.
- College admission anxiety, a parental illness that should also be in the DSM-III and is a perfectly legitimate reason to get a Xanax prescription.
Do you feel better now? If not, you will soon.
And then, your kids will come home for the summer, and then they'll leave...and you'll have to adjust, again. And you will. I did. I still do.
In the same way that volunteering at your child's school makes you part of a community and helps you make friends with fellow parents, volunteering at your local library, homeless shelter, or with a civic group will immerse you in a new community that includes neighbors and empty nesters.
Did you know that Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't start writing books until her children were grown and with kids of their own? Take advantage of your empty nest and get involved in something that you have wanted to do and previously did not have enough time to do. Take a class, play a sport, or find a hobby.
If you've only ever done poorly paid part-time jobs while the children were at home (or if raising kids for 18 years was enough full time work in itself!), now you've got the chance to have a fresh start. Or you may have an ambition to run your own business -- the 'encore career' movement is rife with fresh faced entrepreneurs over 50. Now is the time to discover what passions live within you and pursue them to the bank!
Now that you're not responsible for getting a kid to school at 8 a.m. five days a week, explore the idea of exploring. Rejoice in the freedom you haven't had in years and see the world. Feel like seeing the pyramids? Versailles? Living in Costa Rica for a year week? Step to it amigo!
If an empty nest means anything, it's privacy. Rejoice in your long-deserved break from acting like a parent and act like an adult. Whether you're married or single, take the opportunity to reignite the sputtering spark in your relationship or get out there and carve out for yourself a love life worth living. It's true what they say, sex IS better after 50.
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