Downsizing – Chronicles of an Empty Nester
Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’ ‘Cause I built my life around you But time makes you bolder Children get older
I’m getting older too
Lyrics from Landslide (1975)
I remember our nesting phase like it was yesterday. We went through the same ritual that most expectant parents go through— baby-proofing the home from all of the
potential dangers and setting up the baby’s bedroom, which, by the way, would have been a lot easier to paint if the mom had let me find out the sex of the baby prior to birth. It took me a little while to realize this, but newborns do not really care about the color of their bedrooms, which is a story for another day. Over time, we welcomed two babies into our loving “nest,” and we assumed the customary roles of doting parents.
The years passed and life was filled with the usual ups and downs for our family, but this past year was one filled with particularly big events for the kids. Our son, Collin, graduated from college and moved to Silicon Valley. Years of hard work paid off, and he took a job working for a start-up that focuses on connecting us with the Internet of Things. Is it good that we can now communicate with our refrigerators or doorbells? I can’t say, but I, for one, welcome our robot overlords.
The week following our son’s college graduation, our daughter, Sage, graduated from high school. This past September, we performed our parental duty of delivering her to college, and we took the long drive home…childless. Hopefully, you had already purchased your stock in Kleenex because I am sure there were local shortages reported that week. We took consolation in the fact that she got into the school that she wanted and it is only a 90-minute drive from our house in Santa Barbara, but it does not change the fact that her bedroom is now empty too.
Having kids is a weird process. Whoever invented that phrase “the days are long but the years go fast” was spot on. You think they will be kids forever but then you blink a couple times and, all of a sudden, you’re watching them spread their wings and fly out of that nest you worked so hard to make a home. You knew all along that if you did your job right they would turn out to be independent, but that doesn’t make it any less sad when that fateful day finally arrives and the last child is shuttled off to school.
So now we have gone through the full parenting cycle, from nesting to empty-nesters. I have to be honest—this has been a tough transition. Sending your children off to school is a loss I cannot say we fully appreciated until we experienced it ourselves. I suspect a lot of the sadness comes from the realization that there are no do-overs. They grew up, we grew older, and time continues its relentless march. Another phase of life has ended.
But as the saying goes, when one door closes, another door opens. My wife, Shannon, and I are trying to focus on the positive—food bills will be lower, their rooms are no longer messy, we can make as much noise as we want in the mornings, and we now have spare bedrooms for our guests. We have decided to embrace our new found independence. We no longer have to plan our vacations around spring and summer breaks, and we can pursue new educational and vocational opportunities, without worrying about ignoring the children. We are also re-committing to our marital relationship. In future editions of NHR, I look forward to sharing our tales of adventure as we begin our next phase of life. For now, however, it sure is quiet around here. I don’t know how the birds do this every year. NHR