By Maggie Modjeski, columnist
When I first started the journey of column writing over 15 years ago, the topics were pretty much always about my children. As they grew older, this continued to the point of embarrassment for them as nothing was sacred; anything they did or said could be the potential for column fodder for the entire community to read. It was actually a great parenting tool, almost better than my favorite tool, mom guilt.
While I may have promised them that if I started writing again I would leave them out, I lied, as over the past year we have entered so many different phases in the world of child-rearing, which never truly ends.
One thing I have learned as my children have aged is the importance of birth order and its effect on your home. My youngest got her driver’s license last summer. Flash back several years when my oldest got his, letting him take out the car for the first time was nerve-wracking, let alone at night. There were more rules than I could have ever thought I could make up when he was allowed to take the car. How did those rules look for our youngest child? Nonexistent. In fact when she failed the test the first time, I think I was more sad than she was knowing it meant 15 more days of driving for me until she could retake the test. I often wonder when and where those fears vanish to between your firstborn and last, though read on; they did resurface. As far as our middle, he took his test during COVID-restricted testing, a quick ride around the block and he passed, only to have nowhere to drive to because schools, restaurants, movie theaters and everything else was closed.
Another milestone we have started entering is the world of empty nesting. Note I said “started.” We still have our youngest at home, who reminds me daily how difficult I made my mother’s world. It feels like we are all alone as she breezes through the house to her room and doesn’t come out aside from a bathroom visit or for food and water. I think If I allowed a refrigerator in her room we would never see her.
When she does make an appearance I am usually welcomed with an eye roll, glare and if I am lucky an inquiry about what is for dinner or what is needed from the grocery store. I hear from others that she is a sweet girl and I believe them, as I once again remind myself of how not so kind I was to my mother at that age. I am a little jealous as she has seemed to become closer to her father. It happens, I know, as my own mother still makes an occasional comment about the relationship I share with my own dad, (you now know where I learned about mom guilt; I was taught by the expert) but it doesn’t make me any less envious.
My boys are both away at school. When they are gone it is amazing how big and empty the house seems; the fridge is full, there are even leftovers, cupboards hold actually bags of chips not just crumbs and the toilet paper rolls are actually on the holder and not just cardboard tubes!
Once our middle left last fall, it was an adjustment. Our youngest did not like the focus of suddenly being an only child, the driving rules she didn’t have suddenly appeared as only having her at home to worry about made me worry more. Gradually we have gotten into a routine, with more time on my hands my list of projects has grown but has not yet been completed as I spend my time pinning items on Pinterest, watching Facebook reels and, of course, spending hours looking at recipes I’ll never make and exercise I’ll never do on Tik Tok.
This all will change come May. What every seasoned parent has told me is coming true, the boomerang theory. My oldest and most independent, done with school, has decided to spend a year at home. The soon-to-be empty nest is refilling, and I’m OK with that; it will be an interesting adventure, with the middle home for his first summer after a year away as well, and our daughter entering her senior year of high school. The house already seems a little too small as we prepare for the unknown. If you see me and have lived through this, advice is welcome.
I’m sure this next stage will provide much more fodder, learning how to live with my adult children, boundaries and so much more; a wise older parent told me years ago how much she enjoyed her adult children, and I’m hoping the same is true for me.
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