End of an Era

Last week, I closed out the Girl's 529 Account and this week, we'll be making our last ever(?!) tuition payment. We are now entering that netherworld between having "children" and becoming grandparents (with no guarantee that we will ever graduate to grandparent status).

So, what now?

Thankfully, we've been able to transition gradually, via the mostly-empty-nest, for about three years. And let me tell you, having the house to ourselves is pretty awesome. The Mrs and I can have conversations not about the kids, and we can, like we did Friday night, head up to bed at 7:30 p.m. with nobody to give us shit for being old.

Still, the "senior advisor" role takes some getting used to. When do you offer, when do you keep your damned mouth shut?

I'm like many guys, oriented toward fixing problems when I see them, rather than mere, passive availability of emotional support. I have seen my daughter struggling emotionally--with relationship issues, in particular, but also with mild mental health challenges, and found it very hard to find the right pitch. She's a brilliant, talented, highly opinionated, intensely moral, tightly-wound personality, slow to make friends but fiercely loyal when she does.

I've seen her fall in love. It was glorious. She positively shined. And I ached for her, knowing that there are tremendous risks that go with giving your heart to someone, particularly for the first time.

And I've seen that love crumble, as often happens, not-just-but-particularly with first real loves, and wondered how I could support her and give her what she needs.

I went through something vaguely similar when I was a college junior. A long-term, intense relationship died, not of my choosing (although to my long-term benefit). Picking up the pieces after is one of the signature challenges of becoming an adult. So I know that it's something that she mostly has to do herself. Knowing that doesn't make it much easier for a parent.

She comes home in two weeks for her last spring break. I get to wrap her in my arms again, maybe hold her hand on a walk, and tell her I love her. Maybe along the way, we'll get to have one of those conversations that two adults sometimes have with one another about things that matter. And then we'll send her back across the country for a last time as our dependent, before she goes out into the great, wide open.

13 thoughts on “End of an Era”

  1. I'm still amazed when I think of Facetime/Messenger/email/IM/texting/"free" calls nowdays vs. infrequent collect calls back in the day. Now I get why Mom was a bit teary when they sent me and the packed car off to LA. It's certainly easier now, but not easy.

    1. when the Girl was in St Petersburg (the one with onion domes, not the baseball one), we discovered the magic of Snapchat phone calls. Pretty friggin' amazing.

  2. One of the best things my dad ever did...I broke up with a girlfriend in high school that he loathed and made sure I knew it. But when I told him I broke up with her, he didn't cheer or gloat or I told you so'd. He said he was sorry and asked me if I needed anything. And then he hung out with me for a few hours. It was unexpected and inspiring.

      1. Yeah. Honestly it was a turning point in our relationship and as I got older I felt comfortable coming to him with most of my problems.

  3. As I was reading this, mostly I thought about how different my parenting experience has been. In our house, I'm the one most often counseling a more passive approach while my wife almost always tries to fix as fast as possible.

    I haven't ever really experienced the "picking up the pieces" stage, so that will be an interesting/challenging minefield to navigate with the little guy.

    At this point, I'm pretty glad we've got a solid dozen years at least before even a partially empty nest. He's grown up a lot, but he's still a little boy almost all the time.

    1. The little boy/little girl stages are pretty precious. Most of us cling pretty tightly to those memories during the tough times of their adolescence (not those this are all bad!).

      Every stage, it's almost like having a different kid. I would not trade the experience of being a parent for anything. But I won't lie: there definitely are days when you wonder why the hell you did this.

  4. In January I finally got my son out of the house. He was living with me since August of 2017 basically because he was too busy with the campaign to find a place to live. It was as he got to save a ton of money. But once he got his big boy job, I pretty much insisted that he find his own place. He wasn't a burden, messy, or anything but I believe that part of adulting is grocery shopping, cleaning, budgeting, etc. He was reluctant basically because when he was home, he could turn on the TV and the cable worked. There was TP in the linen closet. Some food in the Fridge. Electricty and Heat worked... I said, if you ever need a place to live because you can't afford to live on your own, you are more than welcome but if you are the means, you should be living on your own.

    So now I am officially an empty nester. I sold his bunk bed and I completely changed my bedroom (it still had the bedroom furniture that was my wife's when she was a child). New decorations on the wall too.

    It's kind of quiet but it's part of the journey.

    1. Man, I bet with the empty space it was tempting to have him around anyway, but yeah, need to learn how to adult. That said, some people learn how to adult while living with family, and some cultures don't really see living independently as a sign of adulting.

      My wife and I have already talked about downsizing once the kids are out. Then again, my dad did too and he's still in the same house, alone.

      1. This reminds me of a funny conversation I had with my neighbor, who immigrated to Minnesota from Vietnam in 2001. I asked if her collage-age children were both living at home and she said, "I am an Asian mom. I want my children to live with me as long as possible."

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