I walk into my teenage daughter’s room to find -- once again -- her bed, floor, desk, and most other surfaces covered with papers, books, projects, or clothes. I offer to help clean her room and reorganize her closets and drawers.
With a sly grin, Tara replies, “No need to, Mom. I’ll be leaving soon.”
“Oh, where are you going?” I ask, trying to remember if she has soccer or piano that evening.
“You know, Mom, to college. I’ll be leaving in about ten months. Only forty more weeks. It’s not worth reorganizing my room since I’ll be going so soon.”
I blink, startled. She’s serious.
An hour later, I walk into her twin brother’s room to check his progress with college applications. My effort is far from appreciated.
“Mom, you need to stop nagging me,” Jake says. “I’ll be leaving for college soon. In only forty more weeks, you won’t know what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be.”
My heart skips a beat. Can it be true they’ll both be off to college so soon? I suddenly remember countless mothers peering into my twins’ stroller commenting on how fast the years would go. They were right. But it feels surreal.
Who could have known our inquisitive daughter would grow into a beautiful young woman with plans to study psychology and neuroscience? Likewise our toddler son, who beat table tops and toy drums with an array of silverware and sticks, will soon enter a conservatory to pursue his passion for composing and performing classical percussion music.
Only forty more weeks. Although I have spent their lifetimes teaching, loving and encouraging them, somehow -- at this moment -- it doesn’t seem enough. So much left to be said and done. Myriad bits of advice dance and tumble in my head like loose buttons in a spinning dryer.
I feel an urgent need to ensure that Tara and Jake will have the skills necessary to manage the multiple demands placed on them. Practicalities like opening checking accounts and the art of monthly balancing must still be taught. I want to emphasize the importance of relishing each day while setting limits in an unbounded environment. I feel the need to talk more about dating, relationships, marriage. And what about daily exercise and sleep? I want to reinforce how important it is to follow their dreams and passions, work hard and play hard, and do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
Further, we need more time together. Time for picnic breakfasts by meandering streams. Time for more bike rides encircled by beautiful mountains.
I find it difficult to acknowledge that our daily interactions over these past eighteen years will come to an abrupt end. Although I’m elated that their departure will open new doors for all of us, I also feel my heart breaking. I picture myself peeking into their silent bedrooms before I leave for work only to see dust particles floating in rays of early morning sunlight. But I vow to follow my own advice and relish all the surprises and opportunities that await us in this next phase of family life.
Recently, Tara argued about her curfew. “Give me one good reason I should be home that early!”
Without a moment’s hesitation, her dad grinned and replied, “Because you’ll be leaving soon. In less than forty weeks. And we want to see a lot of you before you go.”
She returned his grin, hugged him and headed quickly out the door.
Forty Weeks From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters