Son, parents love to tell parents-to-be to get ready because everything changes when you have kids. Well, duh. Raise your hand if you thought you could bring a baby home from the hospital, set the quiet little bundle in the corner next to the keg and go help the band finish setting up.
I thought not.
Of course things change when you have a kid. But at some point, that kid will grow up and if you’re really lucky (and, increasingly, a statistical anomaly), that kid will move out and start a life of his own. These days, of course, he’ll probably be back within a week or two, but still, there’s that brief moment when parents get to be empty-nesters.
We won’t officially get to be empty-nesters for at least another 6 years, but this week, your mom and I are getting a little empty-nest preview; it’s day number 5 in your first week-long sleepaway camp. You’re only 12, so our daily routine is very different than it will be when you’re 18 and we finally kick you out and change the locks. But based on our experience so far, here are some of the ways your parents’ lives are different during your week away.
- It took me a day or so to begin to trust that I could slow down and the last cookie would still be there when I was ready for it. Before this week it had probably been about 8 years since I had time to actually taste my dessert.
- Speaking of food, with no one to set an example for, I haven’t had to pretend I actually like broccoli.
- Complete conversations. We’re having them. And they have a beginning, middle and end.
- I state the obvious far less frequently. Parenting a tween is like that described video on TV for blind people: it’s mostly just pointing out the obvious to people who for some reason can’t see it. “Cheeky, it’s been 10 minutes and your teeth still aren’t brushed,” “Cheeky, your laces are untied,” “Cheeky, I told you not to stick lima beans up your nose.”
- The Lego wounds on the bottom of my feet are finally starting to heal.
- I get to work on time. I suspect this needs no explanation.
Trust me, I could go on, and I’d be lying if I said all that stuff isn’t kind of nice. But having you gone—even for just 5 days so far—has also reminded me that none of that beats the joy you bring us every time you walk in the door. Maybe I’m not in such a hurry to be an empty-nester after all.
See you soon.