A Community for People Who's Children Have Outgrown Them

This is a blog for people who are reflecting on life after their children have flown the coop.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Starting Half Nesterhood

Today we are off to drop the younger child in Philadelphia where she will spend the next 8 weeks at a summer job.  It is a great opportunity and we are thrilled and proud that she found a meaningful position as an 18 year old.  But, there is some sadness that she won't be home for the summer and our nuclear family is not intact.

We are learning at this stage of emptynesterhood that there isn't a rhythm and we must adapt to a transitory existence.  This last month we have all been together.  We managed to get some meals as a unit, enjoyed a handful of family activities and caught-up on one another's lives in real time.  For the last month we have adapted to life as four adults, or mostly.  Some things haven't change much since they were last here.  The kids do come and go at alien hours, their music and TV shows don't really appeal to us and contents in the refrigerator includes snacks and food we try to avoid.  The nicest part is that the siblings reconnected.  Their teasing returned and silly bantering can be heard throughout the day and night.  They would hang out together here or away with common friends.  At times, it was them against us, whether for the music on the car radio or who will do what chores.  We have reunited, and much was like before they moved out, but in a little more mature way.

The biggest thing we missed when the kids were away at school was communication flexibility. Although we spoke regularly when they were at college, the depth of conversation was not the same as when we are staring face to face and inquiring about the day's or night's activities.  We are able to be more engaged and a part of one another's lives.  I can see by the facial expression if the party was really good, or is that the description because it is supposed to be good.  If the kid isn't in a communicative mood, there is another opportunity to test the waters an hour later.  When they are away, I am less inclined to call back too soon, because I don't know what is happening or want to intrude.  If they are just watching TV, what the heck, I can plop down and try to talk.  Some parents view it that when they are away or have moved out, the children are establishing their own lives and we have to give them their space.  Certainly this is true, but when they are away I miss being a more active part of their lives.  It is not that I want to intrude, but hope to share this stage of their lives.  When they are home we can chat about some of the less important of the day's activities that get missed when we have less flexibility.  When limited to a 20 minute catch-up call or a flyby when walking between classes the content of discourse tends to focus on the highlights or more important issues. Now that they are home I also try to include them in my world as they will better understand my daily trials and tribulations.  Hearing about my work issues gives them advance insight into life away from the cloistered college world and might better prepare them for their post graduate existence.  We can and do engage more like adults, and I still have an opportunity to offer parental insights, whether requested or welcomed or not.  This is easier when they are home.

So, we will readjust for next 8 weeks.  We have not had an the older one home alone for an extended period of time since his sister was born.  It will be a new experience.  That's what this stage of emptynesterhood is, regular recalibration of our living situations.  I guess it keeps life interesting.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Days Memories

This weekend we had a family reunion on my wife's sides.  Three generations descended on cousins' houses for food, fun and filosophy.  What became clear from this weekend  was that we now have real perspective about life.  I have now known my generation and the parents' generation for 25 years.  We have shared a lot over that time, illnesses, divorce, death and successes.  Besides some of the obvious physical changes, less hair and more weight, many of us are different people.  Situations and comments that annoyed us in our early adult years don't seem to matter that much.  Rivalries and competition has diminished.  We have matured.

This empty nest period is a transitional time in our relationship with our aging parents.  Our generation is taking charge and the 'rents, like our children, are asked to follow.  We host the events, arrange the logistics, and give the direction.  The torch has been passed.  We also are assuming intervention responsibility.  We weigh in on medical and maybe financial issues. Finally, we feel that our parents really respect our opinions and actively seek our guidance.  This is additional responsibility, but also a strange feeling that we now have to lead the parents who raised us.  Because the parents generation is approaching the final chapter, there is extra pressure not to make a mistake.  There isn't room for recovery or a do over.  I think we try to watch our words a little more carefully, be a little more sensitive to their frailties (yes, that means speaking slower and louder), and take a little more time to be available and around.  There is also a special, enjoyable aspect of this stage.  Reminiscing.  Who other than your parents and siblings can you recall that incident 40 years ago and pretty much remember it the same way and laugh?  We need to make a point to force those recollections and not save them for the shiva or wake periods.  Good times can be created and that is also one of our responsibilities in spending time with the older generation.

The relationship with the cousins was also interesting to observe. As an outlaw (affection term for in law) I have known these people for 25 years.  Over the years we would see each other occasionally during a year and catch-up on their lives directly or through one another.  Many of us have kids the same age range so we compare notes, about our pride in their accomplishments and also disappointments in their set backs.  In some cases their might be petty jealousies,   Yet, we are all family and want the best for one another's offspring.  There is less competition that we knew fifteen years ago.  We have now settled into our status in life, taken peace in our status and accepted some disappointments.  For some, the second time around, whether it is a new career or marriage, spawns hope and optimism.  We are more inclined to commiserate about aches and pains rather than try to smash the tennis ball down the other's throat. Overall, there is more of an easiness being around one another than there was when we were getting to know one another and establish our roles in the extended family.

This was the first time we ever had a reunion like this and it really helped put life in perspective.  Thank goodness most of us are healthy and we can appreciate life.  It is nice to be able to enjoy one another and know a little peace.  At this point, we can reflect back on years of memories, both privately and together.