Sunday, August 21, 2011

Empty Nest

In knowing that my youngest child was leaving for college, several people have asked me if I'll feel happy or relieved to have the last one fly the coop.  I said, "No, I'm going to miss him.  He's my buddy."

I guess my husband and I are fortunate to have raised two kids who always treated us with kindness and respect.  They went through their teenager stages in such a subtle manner that there was no obvious rebellion against us.  Our family bond always out-stuck any connections they had with their peers, and most of the kids they brought home were good kids too.  I think kids in ranching and farming communities tend to mature faster than kids in the suburbs.  I was a suburb brat when I was growing up, and both my brother and I gave our parents hell.  It would have done us good to have some responsibility.  Instead our parents did everything for us and kept subjects like how hard they worked from us.  We didn't have a clue as to how much respect and gratitude they deserved.  My kids are well-prepared for the real world... I hope.

Anyway, we've been without any teenagers in the house for a week now and it does feel strange.  There are adjustments that need to be made, like buying less milk.  I bought our usual 3 gallons of milk last weekend and here were are still with 2 full gallons left and a refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards stuffed to the gills with food.  Never before have I not needed to go to the grocery store on the weekend.  Last week's marketing should last us 3 weeks at the rate things are going.  Of course, I'll have to get fresh milk, eggs and bread at some point, but everything else should last.

The dogs still sit by the door waiting for my son to come home in the late afternoons and evenings.

I look out the window and see my son's truck parked in the driveway, and then think of something I want to tell him, walk into his bedroom only to find it empty and clean.  I wish I took before and after pictures, but will have to describe it instead.  Previously, I never cleaned my son's bedroom.  That was his responsibility.  Why?  Because I literally could not walk further than two-feet past the door.  Piles of clothes covered his floor and somehow he knew which piles were clean and which were dirty, because he did his own laundry.  Every once in a while he'd put on a shirt and get bit by a spider, and then I would say, "See?  That's why we hang up our clothes in the closet."

Natural consequences -- they never seemed to work.

His desk was usually covered in dirty dishes and packages of food.  When it would start stinking, he'd buy some potpourri or spray air freshener instead of just removing the source.  His window shade is broken and  leaning diagonally, which I kind of like because it points at the nosy neighbors' house and they think someone is watching them, I'm sure.  One of my goals once we get some income is to replace the broken shades in the kids' bedrooms with Graber blinds like we have in the main living quarters.

Previously, his furniture and clothing took up every square inch of space in his room.  However, right before leaving for college he cleaned his room thoroughly, shipping off most of his belongings, and moved the furniture up against the walls.  Now there is this huge empty space right in the middle of the room.  A person could dance in there.

For many years he kept this quilt on his bed that I made out of his baby, toddler, and preschooler clothes.  I admit, it was a very poorly constructed quilt because it was one of my first efforts using such a wide variety of fabrics.  It's not easy to stitch a cotton T-shirt material to polyester or rayon.  The quilt was torn and ragged with no planned out color-scheme what-so-ever.  I washed it and bagged it up, replacing it with a store-bought machine-made quilt I brought back from my mother's house, and now my son's bedroom looks like a respectable guest room.

My next goal is to replace all the ratty wood furniture with something more presentable.  When we first moved into this house 16 years ago, we didn't have much money, so we furnished it with hand-me-downs, garage sale items and freebies.  My son's dressers were two wooden file cabinets I got out of the trash pile at my office.  They are still in his room.

When he moved into the room there was a black and pink border of tulips around the wall and a pink valance.  It didn't really matter at the time, because he was just a baby.  Growing up, he never complained and we never had the time to make the room more appropriate for a boy.  At one point -- I think it was around the time he started bringing girlfriends home -- I offered to take down the pink valance, but my son declined.  It didn't bother him, and he really didn't care to be friends with anyone who would make fun of him for his bedroom decor anyway.  As far as I know, no one did bother him about it.  It pays to be big and muscular.

Removing wallpaper is a huge pain.  It has taken my husband and I weeks just to remove all the pink wallpaper from the master bathroom walls and ceiling and some of it is still there. My husband is taking a week off from work soon to try to finish the job.  Years ago I ripped a bunch of black and pink wallpaper off our other bathroom wall and painted instead, because my daughter was at an age where she could help.  We also repainted her bedroom, which was much cleaner and easier to access. 

I remember those two projects taking us all summer, so I always have to laugh when home improvement stores advertise painting a room in a weekend, and show some lady doing the last step of placing a vase up against a freshly painted wall.  Right.  By the time I'm done with a painting project, I've had to put on 2 coats of primer and 3 coats of paint and I've dripped and spilled so many times that my clothes and shoes are ruined, and we have to replace the carpet despite having a plastic cover to protect it, because those plastic covers always shift and creep around despite being taped down...

I hope that some day I can just pay a house painting crew to come in here and do a complete home makeover.  In the meantime, I'll have to go easy on the grocery shopping and pay more attention to my husband.  He's getting lonely in this quiet house.  We miss our kids.  We hope they miss us too.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

This could have been written by me:

"I was a suburb brat when I was growing up, and both my brother and I gave our parents hell. It would have done us good to have some responsibility. Instead our parents did everything for us and kept subjects like how hard they worked from us"
So true!

Plus my parents believed in "Children should be seen but not heard", so we didn't grow up close and they were always pawning me off on baby sitters and rarely ever just spending time together with me, like you and I both have done/still do with our kids.

I think that makes the biggest difference.

Just reading about your quiet house, the hordes of groceries, the empty bedrooms, and you missing your kids...makes me all teary-eyed.
Having my twin sons in summer camp for two weeks gave me a peek into what it will be like for me one day, and it was very bittersweet.
Like you, my boys are my buddies, they are fun, great to talk with or just hang out with, and I like having them around.

As a fellow Mama, I loved this post.



Reddunappy said...

Yeah its different not having any kids in the house. Our middle daughter went into the Air Force, was in for 6 years, got married and out of the Air Force, now she lives in Colorado. She was my buddy, we did everything together, I miss her.
Our oldest, son, he went into the Air Force 2 years after his little sis, and is still in, he signed up for 6 years, he has been in 4 1/2. Our youngest, she is still around, she lives with her boyfriend in the neighboring town, and is out often. She works full time. Its still not the same. Another chapter in life. We have our 4 footed kids now LOL.

Crystal said...

Sounds like you did a good job raising them. And quite an adjustment to just the two of you again.

The D-Meister said...

I miss you too! But I am making that picture my profile; it's proof that I'm the normal one in the family ;-).

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

D-Meister - But are you really the normal one? I mean we did say that this next shot was going to be silly and I see no silliness coming from you. I think you might be a closet serial killer. What have you really been doing all these summers you haven't come home?

Horses Are Our Lives said...

I had 5 or 6 years to get used to the Empty Nest, from the time our first left to our 3rd child left. Now, another 4 years, and he is almost done with college, and I am so used to having the house to my hubby and I. I do enjoy the quieter evenings. It's nice to have time to do what we want to do, and not always running to their events. We are just getting rested to following the grandkids around!

Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, when our son went to UC Davis, my parting memory of him was him standing at the curb outside his dorm with all his stuff...he didn't even walk in. I shed a bucketfull of tears and hubby had to drive me to south Lake Tahoe for dinner! He liked Davis, but hated the cows and the crows there! He had some Korean roommates and learned to speak Korean! Oh, and he got to brush up on his Russian, too, since one year his roommate was Russian! He has a gift for languages and after he graduated, his aunt took him to France for 4 weeks. He took the train over to Florence and Germany...LOVED IT! Yes, having an empty nest is a different experience.

Breathe said...

I am not going to think about that day. I am not!

(Especially since I just bought almost $200 in school supplies).

Sweet post. And love the end picture.

achieve1dream said...

LOL Funny picture. I have a good relationship with my parents although they did spoil me and I was a brat as a teenager. I could have benefited from more responsibility too lol. I figured you would miss your son. You two seemed so close in your posts. :)