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I’m a guy.   I like my space.   I like my stuff.   I love my wife.

For the first time in thirty three years I have them all back to myself.

EmilyDropOffYes, the Dropoff at school was successful and it appears our adorable daughter will merge into the flow of college like a good driver getting onto the freeway.  The road is clear (we like her college), and she’s a very responsible driver.  Worst case she has three brothers and two parents for GPS.

Our empty nest is, of course, relative.  In today’s connected frenzy there is no real solitude (nor would I want that), but JoAnn, my lovely wife, no longer has to feel the compulsion to cook, or be a waitress, or monitor every coming and going in our daughter’s life.

Our grown sons, bless their male souls, have found a wonderful rhythm with us.  They check in, say hello, give brief updates, and then move along their way.  This is fine for me, as it’s my style of communication.  If they want to “get deep”, like talk about their problems or something, I hand the phone to their mom.  They know what type of advice I give best, and they know that their mom will listen for much longer.  That’s the beauty of this thing.

REGJEGLagunaPundits, our friends who have been Empty Nesters for at least one semester, tell us that we have plenty to keep us occupied.  We’ve got a wedding in October and, someday… we’ll be grandparents.  Ironically, as much as JoAnn feels sadness about having this empty nest, she’s not particularly interested in having an infant or toddlers running around right now either.  Even more ironically, I kind of like the idea of grandchildren.  It’s really about finding the new balance.

For thirty-three years we have been parents.  What were once discussions about music, movies, adventure and dreams were partially hijacked by discussions about our kids, their teachers, their sports, their friends… and that was perfectly fine.  In fact, empty nest or not, our conversations are still dominated by issues related to our roles as parents and that’s OK, we love what our children bring to our lives.

JetskiSuddenly, however, we’re back to us.  My career has morphed, and JoAnn’s continues.  For the first time, though, I’ve heard her talking about the possibility of a change – of diversifying her interests and looking at some new things.  Maybe she’d be willing to collaborate with me on my next project… “THIS, I think, is what being Empty Nesters is about!”

It’s day three, and already the possibilities are limitless.  Anyone want to go Jet-skiing?

BackyardShotgunsBefore we get to the Newlywed Thing… As many of you know, our youngest child, and only daughter, is leaving for college tomorrow.  This photo represents how the males in our family feel about that.  Note that their mother is not in the picture because she objected to being in any photograph that included guns – even when they were PROP weapons borrowed for effect in this photo.

Now for the Newlywed thing.

BlogLite21JoAnn and I got married at age 24.  Our first child was born when we were 26, and we’ve had a child in our house for 33 years since his birth.  This weekend, when we drop Emily at college, we’ll pick up our married, no live-in kids, status at the 3 year mark.

I’m good with that.

EmSleeps_5_00My adorable wife and I are sending our youngest, and last, child off to college next week.  She is our fourth, and her departure comes with some significance.  We started our family in 1980 and added new members in ’83, ‘89, and ‘95 respectively.  Our oldest child is thirty-three, which means that JoAnn and I have had kids in our house for more than half of our lives.

We’re empty nesters all right.  We’ve got a wonderful home that, over the last years has experienced a decrease in noise, hunger, and homework.

Here we are, on the brink of the abyss.

I’m feeling a renewed freedom.  If we want to go to the movies, we can.  If we want to lounge around, we will.  If we feel like traveling, we’ll pack our bags.  For JoAnn, however, there is a significant void.  Intellectually it’s quite easy for her to fill in the hole.  She has a career, but she’s always carried that load.  She texts with our daughter all day – but she won’t need to wait up anymore.  She worries about cooking dinner – now she won’t, but none of this is relief she can feel quite yet.  Frankly, we’re just living in Suckville.

BlogLite08I figure we’ll be living here for a month or so.  They say “One door closes and another opens.” To me, this just means there’s going to be a draft in our house for a while.  There’s no question that we’re going to miss Emily’s morning and afternoon rituals – breakfast on the run, homework on the couch.  We’ll miss the sudden dance performances, and conversation re-enactments.  We’ll miss the drama of the drama, and we’ll miss the sweet late night, no-holds-barred conversations.  I’ll miss the moments when our wonderful daughter stands next to my wife, brilliantly and happily reflecting the wonderful woman who has taught her, so perfectly, how to be an amazing and sweet grownup girl.  Yes, it’s going be Suckville.

EHGJGGBeachAfter a while though, with constant doses of Skype, and love from our other three children – all sons who were raised to protect and honor their mother – we will find the new normal.  We will begin to ignore the void, or fill it with a new type of busy that will include the addition of a new daughter (in the upcoming wedding of our second son), the ongoing growth of our oldest, and the remarkable exploits of our third.  We will be reminded of the luck we have in our friendships, and the strength we find in each other.  We will find comfort in the good fortune we have in being able to send our daughter to a fine school, even when it hurts.  But that’s our job.

Before we know it, she will be home for her brother’s October wedding and after that, it will suddenly be Thanksgiving, The Holidays, and the New Year.

As much as I’d like to think that I’m tough and my daughter is just moving into this new phase, I have to say that I’ll be joining JoAnn as we pass through Suckville.  I just hope the New Normal is right around the bend.

MISHAPS AND MILESTONES

BandagedKneeYesterday I had the pleasure of sitting next to an adorable two-year-old named Amelia and her loving parents.  Proactively, her mom pointed out that the small cuts Amelia had on her upper lip and nose were the result of a fall that had occurred that morning “Wouldn’t you know it,” she said, “the day of a big party, she falls and cuts her lip.”

As a father of four, I would know it.

I’d also know that this poorly timed little incident was going to be the first of many.  I can’t count how many times one of our kids appeared in a school play or musical performance with a cast on their arm, a patch on their eye, or a band-aid on their face.  I also recall that when I was about six, I decided to cut my own hair just before a similarly public appearance.

I joked with Amelia’s mom that this wouldn’t be the last of these little events and that the timing of these lessons is rarely ideal, but I was also reminded that each of these escalating things – these scraped knuckles, these first rides on a two-wheeler, these early broken hearts, are all important events along the way to adulthood.

Em's GraduationOur daughter, Emily, will be going off to college in a few weeks.  She’s ridden a two-wheeler, she’s scraped her knee and banged her head.  She’s had her heart broken, and we’ve been there to help her through it all.  Yesterday a good friend sent us an excellent article from the Huff Post written by Marshall P. Duke, a professor at Emory University, who has been watching parents drop their “children” off at college for forty-three years.  What is most satisfying in the article is the recognition that dropping your child at college is just another one of those ongoing milestones that make up our lives as children and parents.  It’s part of the natural flow of things – as much a part as their first step, their first words, and their first opinion.  It’s what’s supposed to happen and, as such, it’s something to be embraced as yet another rung on the way up the ladder.  It’s a really good article and I’ve put a link at the end of this posting.

BikeRidingKidSo, just as sure that I am that Amelia and her parents will be experiencing, surviving, and learning from each of the minor mishaps and major milestones that lie ahead of them, I am equally sure that JoAnn and I will enjoy watching and sharing the new and different challenges that will come with Emily’s independence.  Additionally, we will cheer for her and enjoy her success as she conquers them.  You see, all of those little mishaps, heartbreaks, and disappointments have prepared her (and us) for this – and that’s what they’re supposed to do.

Link to the article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marshall-p-duke/starting-college-a-guide-_b_3670553.html?utm_hp_ref=tw