Empty(ish) nest

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empty nest

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when we look back, everything is different …”

— C.S. Lewis

As a mother of grown adults who still live at home, I am not sure how to refer to myself. Empty(ish) nest status is such a grey area. They technically still live at home, but both attend college, hold down jobs and pay taxes like the grown-ups they are. They rarely need my daily input, although sometimes I am allowed to buy them lunch.

I like to think that if raising children to adulthood is a career, then I have been moved from management to consultant status.

Future

I have said for years that I was not actually “raising children.” I was raising future adults. If they had been slated to stay children forever I would have done things differently. It would have been more fun and less rules for certain.

Children don’t have to be self-supporting, able to traverse the world or able to interact in adult society and hold their own, after all. Adults, however, are expected to do all those things and more.

Being a parent means making decisions for the good of your child before yourself. I can fully admit that becoming a role model for young humans probably saved my life. It definitely saved some other people’s lives.

I’ve lost count of the number of times when only the presence of our children, and the question of who would watch them while I made bail, kept me quiet. I’m pretty sure you permanently forfeit even the slimmest chance of mother of the year while incarcerated for throat-punching a person. Even if they richly deserved it.

Can be wrong

Of course, it was also important to realize that our precious darlings could sometimes be wrong. I hope all the parents of the special snowflakes who can never be wrong were sitting down when they read that. My kids have known since very young that coming to claim the coach, teacher, most anyone, etc. “hates them” is a hard sell.

I am invariably going to say “so let me get this straight, you were just sitting there reading your Bible and they came along to wrong you for absolutely no reason?”

After they get done eye-rolling at me, they usually step back and see what part they were playing in the dynamic. In that way, they learned to work on ways to remedy situations and repair relationships long before we had to get involved.

When tempted to “Mama Bear” in and breathe fire on your child’s behalf, it’s wise to remember that when they are adults, we will have no pull with “difficult bosses” and “mean professors.” It is best to plan and equip our adults to handle things for themselves.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have their backs. It means that daddy and I are supporting players cast in the position of “last resort.”  Repeat after me: doing things with your young adults is fine. Doing it for them is not.

Coping

Speaking of dads, one of the most frightening times in marriage, I think, is not when you have children — but when you don’t. Not in the literal sense of children. We still hold dear the people who (to us) will always be our children.

That said, having spent more than two decades being “mom” and “dad” leaves a risk of waking up one day and realizing you don’t know how to be anything else anymore. That isn’t good for anyone.

To cope with this, we are finding ways to have post-parenting fun together again. We started a business. We are working on projects around the home (that may be more fun for me than Mr. Wonderful).

We are becoming truly obnoxious, overbearing pet parents (okay, that one might be more me as well). We are rebuilding a social life with our peers. It is exciting to have plans that exist beyond the sidelines of kid’s sporting events and school plays. Most importantly, my middle-aged bedtime is much earlier than their now non-existent curfews.

I surely do miss our babies some days, but I’m also pretty thrilled with these young adults they grew into. The hours turned into days and somehow we just got through each, one day at a time, until we were through all the childhood days.

Now we will have new days and, we hope, continued happiness and new adventures. I certainly hope our nest will continue to fill up with pets and people and endless blessings. We are always open to new couple friends who like early-bird dinners and won’t ask me to go hiking.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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