Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Freshman 15

George and Susan sit either side of a table, with coffee. 
There's a definite lack of sparkling conversation. 
George forces a smile at Susan. There's a long pause, broken only by Susan sighing. 
George finally thinks of something to say.

GEORGE: I, uh, oh, broke a shoelace today.

SUSAN: Oh, I can get you shoelaces tomorrow.


SUSAN: So, what color?

GEORGE: Brown.

Susan nods her comprehension, as George muses for a moment.

GEORGE: Maybe a black.

It’s been about 6 weeks since our kids left for college.  While some things are definitely different, other aspects of my life remain unchanged.  I’m slowly learning to navigate this new stage of life and I’ve come up with a list of 15 things I’ve noticed about being an empty nester.

1. We’ve got our Friday nights back.

2. And our Saturday mornings.

3. And Wednesday afternoons. After years of filling them with football games, Cross Country meets, plays, and little league games, it seems weird to look at the calendar and see nothing on the schedule so…

4. We’re making plans together. Last month we took some long bike rides. We went to a book signing and saw a show at the theatre. This month we are signed up for a cooking class. Data shows a slight increase in the number of days I was voluntarily NOT in my pajamas by 8pm.  

5. We’re making plans apart. Paul’s playing tennis a few times a week and I’m taking a class on Tuesday nights. Paul sings in the choir and I love my Friday morning cycle workout.

6. We’re talking. but now it’s less about parenting logistics and more about tennis and class and choir and cycle workouts. One of Paul’s favorite quotes from Seinfeld is when George Costanza is having a mundane conversation with his fiancĂ© and says, “I broke a shoelace today.” We don’t want to be that old couple you see in the restaurant staring at each other or their phones because they have nothing to say.

7. We are cooking less... Without the structure of family dinners, our eating patterns are less regular. It’s easier to spontaneously go out when there’s fewer schedules to coordinate. So, we’ve spent less on groceries and more on restaurants and that brings me to my next point:

8. …And eating more. No, I haven’t gained the “Freshman 15” since Katherine left for college, but I’ve put on a few.  The good news: When you squeeze into too tight pants, it smooths out all the wrinkles. No ironing!

9. Tackling home projects. Katherine told me that college freshmen worry that they will come home to find their rooms have been repurposed. The bedrooms are untouched, but we did replace an old vanity and toilet in our hall bathroom. Today I’m going to pick up tile for a backsplash and we have plans to replace the 20 year old wallpaper in our kitchen.

10. Traveling. I’ve got good kids. And yet, leaving them alone for a weekend wasn’t easy.  Remember all those funny stories of the stuff we did in high school? It’s funny until you have teenagers and then it’s a little nerve wracking.  After a weekend away with friends, it was good to come home and not feel like I was playing detective looking for evidence of foul play.

11. I have clothes! And shoes. And jewelry. And it is all in my closet right where it is supposed to be because no one has borrowed anything.

12. I’m wearing sunscreen.  Being old enough to have two kids in college means being old enough to see the aging effects of my own teenage years. The Hawaiian Tropic SPF 4 was replaced with Neutrogena SPF 50 years ago, but the damage was done. Next week, I’ll have a small surgery to remove a skin cancer from my nose.  Luckily it is October and I’m sure I can work the stitches into some sort of Halloween costume.

13. I’m still parenting.  I’m glad they still call and text for advice. I’m proud of their growing independence but it’s still nice to feel needed. And when Jack wants to know how to make tuna noodle casserole (cook the noodles first!) he could google it but I’m glad he chose to call his momma.

14. I’m still worrying. There’s an expression—If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. But I think that’s backwards. If Jack or Katherine is having a tough time or a bad day, my heart hurts for them. And I worry.  I’m hoping it will be a funny family story someday.  “Remember the time you were sick and you called mom and told her you were dying and then she couldn’t get in touch with you so she called campus security to check on you?”

15. I still wake up every morning determined to be the best me I can be. And I still screw up. I still take time to thank God for this new stage of my life and I’m still living with a grin, some grit, and a bit of grace.

Cheers to being an empty nester!