I am writing this post while sitting in a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in the middle of Pennsylvania. My son and I drove five hours to get here, so that he could move into his new apartment at college, where he will spend his sophomore year.
My daughter is moving back to college this week as well. She is about to start her senior year, already anticipating what comes next after graduation. Luckily for us, she is continuing in the same apartment from last year so her move isn't too bad. She turns 21 just as she is moving back to college.
It's been weeks of preparation, shopping and reminiscing, and for some reason it's much harder this time around.
We are facing, once again, the "empty nest" after a summer of activity. The house was alive with people and plans; we were in our glory. Moving the kids back into college this year is a lot harder than last year. My friend says it's because it's not new anymore. I'm living the "not-so-new" empty nest and it's an emotional roller coaster.
Last year at this time, I was embracing the empty nest. I had already gone through taking my daughter to college two years prior, and had already faced the intense emotions that come with the transition. It was much easier with my son last year, mostly because I knew exactly what to expect and how to react. I kept it all in check. I was thrilled to see them both off to their college of choice, looking forward to the best four years of their lives.
This year, the novelty has worn off.
The empty nest isn't new anymore. The excitement has faded. Reality has set in.
Don't get me wrong, I couldn't be happier. As a Dad, my job is to build my children's confidence so that they can conquer the world however they want. It's my job to give them the functional and emotional tools to go out on their own. It's just not easy seeing them actually go out and do it!
The truth is that we've got adult plans of our own now. We plan to move on too, well passed the school phase and all the hard work that comes with it. We've got the house on the market and we are trying to figure out exactly where we want to live and exactly how we want to live it. Maybe that's the part that's making it so much harder this year. We have decisions to make too.
It's time for us to go out on our own as well and we are ready for it.
But it comes with a price... the price is independence, after years of taking care of the family through every stage of childhood, including heading off to college for the first time. After that first year of college, the stakes all change again.
The night before my son and I took that long drive, we all had dinner as a family for the last time in our house. We didn't say a word, quite honestly because I was too tired from all the packing and prep to face the emotions, but we celebrated a very specific time together in that very specific home.
So now it's time for me to face the next change in life: The not-so-new empty nest. Game on!