It’s fall and many of us are experiencing the first-time empty nest, or the return to school/return home from the pandemic, symptoms.
My nest occupancy has not changed. I still have my son, part-time. From the outside, our nest structure is the same as it was 16 years ago when his Dad and I separated.
When They Have Wheels:
“My grocery cart and bill look very different depending on ‘who’s coming for dinner’.”
Well, I say the same but it does look very different. First, the parent-designed schedules of the ‘three/four’ or the ‘week on week off’ are long gone. (Consider yourself lucky if you have zero inkling of what I just said.)
Right about the time a drivers license was issued and car keys turned over, our orchestrated schedule design was dismissed for self-actualization. Our son comes and goes between his two homes as he pleases, for the most part. Honestly, neither his Dad nor I mind the fluidity of our house guest. The real issue lies in food management. My grocery cart and bill look very different depending on ‘who’s coming for dinner’. The pantry barely resembles itself when my son is not here. Quickly mutating, absorbing much of the cold brew coffee, chip, and snack aisle, at his mere presence.
The Subtle But Significant Change:
“Yesterday he was mine; today he belongs to himself.”
On the surface it seems like everything is status quo this autumn. But oh how far from the truth. My part-time house guest is no longer ‘legally’ a child. What do you do when your ward becomes a legal adult?
The build-up to turning 18 is, in part, my fault. I am forced to admit that I dangled the ‘when you’re an adult… fill in the blank’ threat/promise over him many times during his child rearing. At the time, I felt it a good motivator to learn and master some rudimentary skills. You know those hardcore adulting skills like laundry, garbage removal, personal hygiene, and the like.
Of course, I wouldn’t go back and change my ‘when you’re an adult’ tactic. How else do you get them to do their laundry and brush their teeth? Not to mention warning them of the eventuality of full self-responsibility.
But quietly, and in my opinion, abruptly, the adult moment arrived. Now, ordinary things, like accessing his medical records or attending a dentist’s visit, or renewing his passport are no longer my responsibility – nor, my privilege. The email sent from his ‘pediatrician’ letting me know that my password to his medical records no longer was valid nearly pushed me to tears. Yesterday he was mine; today he belongs to himself.
The Adult Child:
Then there’s his reaction to this magical number. Something I had not considered.
“Mom, I can buy a shotgun now.”
“Wow, now I can get a tattoo without your permission.”
“Hey, I can take a road trip with my friends.”
He’s still new at 18; but, I bet he’ll come up with more as he grows into the “i’m an adult now’ concept. I’m not looking forward to it.
“the phrase ‘under my roof’ gets tossed around almost nearly at the same rate that I used to say ‘brush your teeth’”
For those of us whose fledglings flew away for the first, second, or even third time, I bet learning how to absorb or re-distribute a great deal more free time is challenging. My time is still very limited; but, my role has morphed. I still clean. I still provide a back-up to the five morning alarms that somehow just don’t hack it. And, I still wave my magic ‘make food’ wand.
Addition To The Nest:
While from the outside my nest appears unruffled and status quo, I have made some renovations. Now, when I am presented with an 18 year-old’s proclamation, I remind my progeny of a part of the nest of which he was unaware. I have added a ‘roof’. It’s a completely new addition and provides me with the ammunition I need to get through the next year.
So now the phrase ‘under my roof’ gets tossed around almost nearly at the same rate that I used to say ‘brush your teeth’; ‘go to bed’; ‘do your homework’. It’s a transparent roof. I am not fooling him. And, it’s not elegant, but hey, it works. Sometimes that’s just good enough.