It is a scene to which most parents of teenagers can relate. A pile of shoes by the door telling you that a group of your child’s friends have gathered at your house. It’s a lovely sight! I took this picture a few months ago, not long before my youngest departed for her freshman year of college. COVID-19–be-damned we allowed her to have <10 (masked) friends over as a farewell get together before they all went their separate ways. They needed it. We needed it.
When I started working at PRA, my girls were in second and fifth grade. The part-time hours were key so that I could be home when they got off the bus. Eleven years later I have a college freshman and senior. We are, officially, empty nesters.
Throughout their childhood, on those tough days and even tougher nights, I often longed for this day and the calm that would come with it. I would joke with my husband, “Only 15…10…5…more years!” But as they got older, time seemed to pick up the pace and I found myself wondering where all those years went. One day they were begging to have a lemonade stand, and the next they were taking driver’s education and shopping for prom dresses. It is 100% true what they say: “The days are long, but the years are short.” It happened so fast!
In an odd twist, the pandemic had an upside. We sat down to dinner together just about every night for 5 months. We watched movies together, and even had game nights. The benefit of hindsight prevented me from wishing it away and reminded me to cherish every moment. Sure enough, before we knew it, we were moving one into her off-campus apartment with well-established friends, and driving the other to an unfamiliar place, with a COVID-mandated “airport drop-off,” no less. Our arrival back at home to an empty house reminded me of the day we brought our first-born home from the hospital—now, what?
It’s only been a couple of months, but we seem to have settled into our “new normal.” We (read: Dave) have adjusted to grocery shopping and cooking meals for two. I can de-clutter a room, and it miraculously stays that way! Since we are both working from home, we can leave town mid-week and work from my Dad’s house in Connecticut or from our place up in Lake Luzerne—a welcome change of scenery. Most importantly, we have found that we still like each other! 😊
Sure, the quiet is nice. But I miss them. I again find myself counting down, but this time it is in anticipation of their return home (4 weeks, 5 days, if you were wondering). Their friends, who I love like my own, will also be back in town. With any luck, there will soon be a few pairs of shoes by the door.