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.