Empty Nesters in Training

As I mentioned yesterday, the kids were gone last week.

The week was entirely too short and went by way too fast.

On Monday, we met up at the skating rink and played pick-up roller hockey for a couple of hours.  It was a blast from our past and simply exhilarating.  We stood around and visited with folks – because we could, and thus it was well after 8:30 before we started thinking about what we might do for dinner.

If the kids had been in the equation, we would have had little choice but to stop at McDonald’s to grab something for them to eat in the car on the way home because we were rushing past bedtime.  But the kids were not in the equation and we opted to do the responsible thing and go home and fix dinner, rather than pick something up.

There was nothing special about the evening.  We fixed soft tacos (cooking the tortillas) and unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen and fed the dog and took her out.  We simply existed in each other’s space and got things done.  No one had to tell anyone to take care of something.  No one came in asking inane questions.  No one picked a fight.  No one tried to get someone else in trouble.  No one rolled her eyes at me.  No one peppered me with details from his video game.  No one demanded my attention.

It was quiet.

It was peaceful.

It was heaven.

The next day, a co-worker and I were talking and I mentioned that my kids were away from home.  “Oh, I bet you are already ready for them to come home, aren’t you?!” she gushed.  “My sister cries when she drops her daughter off.”

“Not really,” I responded, ignoring her shocked expression.  “I’m going to guess my kids are a bit older than your sister’s, but no, I’m not ready for them to come home.  I’m too busy enjoying myself.”

I don’t know if I’m an oddball or if too many parents feel compelled to act the part of a loving, devoted parent.  As if admitting you enjoy your time away from the kids somehow paints you a monster.  As if you can’t both love and cherish them and want time away from them.

There have been studies that have shown that people without kids report being happier than people with kids.  I think there are reasons for this that are more complicated than the media summary that kids make you unhappy, but still – there it is.  Let’s face it.  Parenting is hard work.  The hardest job you’ll ever attempt.  And sometimes?  Those little demons you are trying to raise into productive citizens?  They are just plain mean.  And irrational.  And demanding.  And baffling.

It’s true.  And trying to pretend you love every moment of parenthood doesn’t change that.

So maybe I’m an oddball.  Or maybe my husband and I have managed to keep a sense of “us” that isn’t defined by our children.  We still know each other and like each other and are interested in each other when the kids aren’t there.  It doesn’t mean we don’t love them and don’t look forward to seeing them again.  It just means we don’t depend on them to feel whole.  To define who we are.  And it means that in thirteen years when the last one moves out… we’ll be doing just fine.

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