When my youngest turned 18 a few months ago, it occurred to me that we now had become a four adult family. This man-child of ours is quick to remind his father and I of that fact by saying “you know, I’m an adult now” whenever he wants to assert that he has the legal authority to make decisions for himself. He is often quite comically about it but there is truth in jest and, while we respect his quest for some level of independence, hopefully he realizes that he still needs our counsel on many aspects of his life as well as our financial support. However this post is not about him, it is about his father and me.
A few weeks ago we found ourselves experiencing a trial run at being empty nesters as our two children vacationed together for a week in a faraway land. After dropping the kids off at the airport, my husband and I headed to an open air shopping district that we could stroll through and enjoy the warm summer night before heading back home. On the way to our destination, my husband remarked that in the week ahead we would get a glimpse at what our life would soon be like as empty nesters. Since our kids are quite independent and able to get themselves to school, work, and appointments on their own, parenting is not so much hands-on anymore as it more like monitoring with us trying to keep track of where they are and asking if they plan to be home for dinner.
It’s not a new experience to have both of our kids away from home at the same time for a week or more, but the idea of them going on that trip had a different feeling for me and I think I have figured out why. In prior years when our children were gone from home at the same time, either at camp or on a trip with friends, their father and I had been the ones to make the arrangements and make sure that there was appropriate adult supervision. They were like a mini-vacation for us, temporarily free from kid duty and the associated responsibilities. This time it was our daughter who made all the travel plans and reservations for herself, her brother and two of her friends. Beyond that, both she and our son are paying for this trip with their own money earned from recent employment and they would be their own adult supervision. This was quite a revelation for me. Thanks to modern technology, I was able to stay in contact with them during that week so I did not have to go cold turkey on the monitoring of their whereabouts. All went well on the trip and they tell us that they had a great time.
I know how fortunate my husband and I are that our children are intelligent, responsible, and considerate individuals who are capable of making good choices. I also know that a certain young woman and a certain young man still have a lot to learn about living their lives as intelligent, responsible, and considerate adults. And that my husband and I have a lot to relearn about living our lives as our intelligent, responsible, and considerate adult children are learning to live theirs. As much as I love and admire the independence of my young adult children, I sometimes miss the dependence they had for me when they were younger.
I guess it’s time for me to rediscover some of my own independence.