In fact, there wasn’t any clear line of demarcation. And while some of the signposts were there, I failed to see them, most likely because I didn’t want to.
So, at least for me, it was a surprise
Yup, The Hubster and I have become empty nesters.
It has now been eight months since The Teenage Daughter—who, in all fairness, will turn 20 years old one week after Christmas—has left the building to live her with kind and good boyfriend. Already, the two of them seem to fit like an old shoe, so much so that my child appears more comfortable, and way happier, than I’ve seen her in a long time.
Most Girl Clown Dancing fans know that my girl graduated from high school last year, and then, for a whole lot of reasons, enrolled in our awesome community college.
When the time came to start her freshman year there, we wanted to support and encourage her as much as possible. So, to that end, we picked up the costs for all book rentals, registration fees and parking passes. (Thanks to a generous patron, her first year of tuition was free.)
There’s more, all of which we were happy to do.
We didn’t ask her to pay any room and board, and we also gifted her with a top-of-the-line laptop. In addition, I gave her my sensible white sedan to commute to school, about 10 minutes from our house. And we agreed to give her a small weekly allowance for gas and snacks, as well as money to cover her cell phone and most of her car maintenance
In return, we asked that she find a part-time job (she did) and adhere to a reasonable curfew (which she mostly did), and let us know when she wouldn’t be home for dinner.
We figured she’d live here, with us as a mostly invisible parachute, until she got her associate’s degree, graduating with zero debt. After that, she would move out to attend a four-year school, or maybe leave for a promising job that would be the springboard to whatever her career might be.
It was A Very Good Plan.
And really, all went well for the first three months or so.
Then I noticed that she was starting to spend a lot more weekends with girlfriends. My daughter has always been
an extrovert, so while the frequency was unusual, it still didn’t register with me that something else might be going on.
But not long after, she was staying only a night or two at home in the course of any given week. Still, we knew her grades and her job were A-Okay, so we decided it wasn’t worth an interrogation.
The Big News arrived in January.
My daughter had stopped by to pick something up. As usual, I was on the couch with a dog or two, reading and trying to mind my own business.
“Okay,” she blurted out. “I have a boyfriend. I’ve known him for a couple of months. But now it’s official, so I can
Not long after, she and he met The Hubster and me at a favorite restaurant. They requested that this first meeting take place in public, primarily because my child was terrified that her dad wouldn’t approve of the relationship. She needn’t have worried; it was obvious that this man adored her, which was the most important thing to us. We also liked the fact that he had met her at school; worked full-time, and was a few years older than her.
Still, my child continued with her mostly-not-around schedule, grabbing a few items from her room here and there whenever she left.
Then, a few weeks later, the two came over for dinner. We’d just begun to dig into the meal.
“So,” said The Hubster, gazing intently at both of them. “Are you two living together?”
My daughter and her beau looked at each other. Then, both smiling sheepishly, they nodded yes.
“It’s fine,” replied her dad. “We just wanted to know what’s going on.”
The energy in the room lightened considerably, and immediately.
That night, my daughter skedaddled with most her clothes and makeup and shoes to what is now her home. These days, we usually see them once a week, sometimes for dinner, sometimes for breakfast. In-between, my girl and I trade jokes and recipes and videos on social media. She also knows that if the relationship ends up taking a different turn, her bed isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Meanwhile, it’s a whole new, and pretty interesting, ball game for me.
Having had her in my home for nearly two decades, and also not being able to imagine my life without her, of course I miss her effervescent energy, keen observations and good humor.
I mean, what can I say? I love her. Beyond the moon and back.
However, I don’t miss the moodiness and general angst that comes with being a 19-year-old, which included the mastering of slamming doors, one word answers and withering glances.
All in all, it’s just a lot calmer, and a lot more predictable, around here.
Indeed, we’re smack in the middle of a routine that I found in an article titled 10 Things to Look Forward to as an
Empty Nester. I identify with more than few items here, including the fact that our food bills are way smaller, and
the kitchen sink is cleaner.
Did I mention that we can also cook shrimp and canned beans and eggs now without my daughter making faces? But the very best part for me is number seven: having the chance to now experience my child as a terrific young adult.
Of course, each one of us is still working through the many fluctuations that this new life chapter is bringing. Interestingly, I find myself neither happy nor sad. Rather, I prefer to think of it all as a new learning experience,
one that I’m trying to be completely present for.
So far, so good.
What about your experiences as an empty nester—either from a parent perspective, or from a child’s point of view?
As always, I look forward to your stories and comments!