Empty Nest?

As my friends and I work our way through middle age, I often hear the term ’empty nest’ tossed around. As children approach high school graduation and move on to college, many parents post their tear-filled moments on social media, bringing on a barrage of dismal responses. I, myself, posted a few photos last spring as my youngest daughter went through the rite of high school graduation. I was to be an empty nester.

And I was excited about it! After years of being a chauffeur, maid, laundress, cook (or drive-thru driver), I was finally finished! Seriously, folks, why get so upset? You’re getting your life back…your life. Not the life that is solely dedicated to making certain you don’t end up on Dr. Phil with your kid telling the world how you screwed him or her up, but the life where you can actually watch Dr. Phil uninterrupted if you choose. You can eat cereal for supper every night if you want. You can make dinner plans without checking your kid’s schedule. No more parent-teacher conferences, sleep-overs (I managed to avoid these. My kids didn’t want their friends to see me when I was tired and cranky. Bummer.), prom dress shopping (Is that hell or what?)…And you think you’ll miss that?

And then there’s this…

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It’s clean, and it will remain that way until my young college student comes home. I had no idea there was carpet in that room. And that quilt has several shades of blue that haven’t seen the light of day in months. I’ve heard some parents say they would miss the messes once their kids were gone. Really? Not this momma.

Full disclosure…I am not totally an empty nester. Did you know they sometimes come back? It’s like this cruel joke. You finally get rids of all of your kids, and you make plans with your spouse to do all the exciting things you’ve sacrificed for years (and years and years), and then someone returns to the nest. With the cost of college, and subsequent loan payments, starting out in a new career is hard, and sometimes not very well compensated. Our middle daughter is in that situation. She has a bachelor’s degree, landed a job in her chosen field of education, and now she is poor. Financially, living with us just makes sense. Dammit. We have told her that we are going to sell our house and move into a one-bedroom apartment. She just smiles. Every time she buys something, I say, “You’re going to live with us forever, aren’t you?” “Yes.”

As I analyze my feelings about the potential to have an empty nest, I wonder why I am not saddened like my friends. Am I that heartless? Do I suck as a mom? Do my children hate me? Do I hate them? Without a doubt, I know that the answer to two of those questions is no. I’m afraid to ask my daughters the other two questions. I became a mom when I was 21. At that time in my life, I thought I was so old and so mature. I was a child. For the next 27 years, my priority was my daughters. I attended all of their many activities no matter how boring (golf); I encouraged, supported, disciplined, cared for, and loved with all my heart. I laughed, cried, screamed, and cheered. For 27 years.

Now that they are grown, I can enjoy them as adults. I can cuss in front of them  (It was a struggle to control that for 27 years), tell them inappropriate jokes, and act as their friend instead of their mom. There is a difference (although some parents don’t seem to get that concept). Do I still worry about each of them? Absolutely. Do I still want to boss them around? Yup. Always will.

I think my situation is a little different because I am a teacher. I am still around kids all the time, and I still attend numerous school events and ballgames. I do miss Addie. When activities that she was involved in at school take place, I miss seeing her there. Then I just come home and look at her clean room, and I’m okay again. I also have a lot of hobbies and jobs. Between school and working out and coaching cheer and an academic team and real estate and the gym…I don’t have time to get all weepy.

So, parents of the Class of 2016, do not be sad. Make plans. Move that kid of yours to college and reclaim your life. They visit. Clean his or her room and then just sit there and bask in the lack of smelly, dirty clothes, dishes that have been in there for weeks, and piles of clothes that could be clean or dirty – who knows? You’ve done your job. If you did it well, your child is ready to be independent. Be proud of that. Isn’t our goal to raise strong, independent, successful, and kind people? And someday you’ll have grandkids, and let me tell you, they are way cooler than kids!

Graduation Week Thoughts

In two days, my baby will graduate from high school. It’s an emotional time for both of us, but let’s focus on me. My husband has told me to celebrate rather than grieve. I’m trying…I’m trying! I wouldn’t really say I am grieving. I really am excited to see where Addie’s career leads her, and I am incredibly proud of all she has accomplished and of the young woman she has become. I am thrilled with the education she received at Tell City Schools. She excelled in academics, but was also taught respect, discipline, and boundaries, which will be just as important as the academics as she begins life as an adult. She and her classmates might not have always agreed with the rules, but they will soon learn that they are better prepared for college and the workforce because they were expected to dress appropriately, put away their phones, and treat others with respect. Their class also entered Tell City Junior Senior High School when it was a failing school, but are leaving a Four-Star, A-Rated school; they helped our school achieve that rating. They have all shown great leadership and determination, and we should all celebrate their successes.

As a mother, I am also a little sad. You see, this isn’t just an ending for Addie, but it is also an ending for me. I have had kids in public school for 21 years. Her graduating marks the end of an era in my life. Just as when her sisters graduated, I find myself asking if I did everything I could. Did I teach her all I needed to teach? Did I take her enough places? Did I say the right things? There are no do-overs in parenting. We get one shot at it, and then we send them into the world. My one shot is just about over. Yes, I know we never stop being parents, but we become different kinds of parents as we release control. Our graduates will now phase us out. They will take all the lessons they’ve learned from us, as well as from their coaches, teachers, family members, and friends, and they will make their own choices. Sometimes they will fail, and they will come back for reassurance. Sometimes they’ll see great success and happiness, and we can take comfort knowing we did something right. This graduation is also a bit more sad because Addie is the last. When her sisters graduated, I knew I still had her at home. I have also taught at her school for the last two years, and spent a few years with her at the elementary school. Simply put, I am going to miss Addie’s daily presence. I enjoy seeing her at school. I love those moments when she pops up to my classroom during the day, even if it is just to ask for money or a signature.

And then there’s tennis. She is my only child who played golf and was in band, but all three girls have played tennis. Every spring for the past 16 years has been spent at the tennis courts. Next spring will be odd. Thankfully I have plenty of students I can go watch, but it won’t be the same. Though sometimes we are so busy I feel that I’m sinking in quicksand, it’s difficult to imagine not being so busy. I am grateful that Gary and I have our own interests. Many parents spend all their time on their kids’ sports and activities, and they really are lost when it’s over. Although I’ve always been there for the girls’ activities, I’ve also taken time for my own. I won’t have to work runs around matches or contests. I am going to get back into coaching cheerleaders, which I haven’t done for many years. Who knows what else I’ll get myself into.

Fun Facts This Week:

  • Gary and I actually have three graduates this spring: Addison from high school, Bethany from college, and Gary’s son Bryce from nursing school.
  • Bryce already had a degree from Indiana University, but after several years in the field of geographic information, he returned to college to obtain a nursing degree. Having been a non-traditional student myself, I know the diligence it takes to return to college. Kudos to Bryce for sticking it out! His wife will also graduate with a nursing degree next spring.
  • I graduated from Tell City 30 years ago. Damn. 30 years.
  • In four years, Addie will graduate from Murray State University, and our oldest granddaughter, Molly, will graduate from high school. Those years will fly by!
  • I didn’t sob during the senior walk today. I kind of sniffled, and wiped a few tears, but I didn’t sob. Addie did.
  • Addie receive four academic scholarships. Every single dime matters.

Once graduation is over, Gary, Addie, and I will delve into the summer musical, Mary Poppins. Addie is assisting the director, and will be on stage for a couple of numbers. Gary has a leading role as George Banks. I am a statue. Okay, I dance (wearing a UNITARD), and will also be a chimney sweep (which is going to be an incredibly fun scene). We seriously have an amazing cast, and are all so excited to do this together. Gary, Bethany, and I were all in The Wizard of Oz 12 years ago, and it was a wonderful summer. I feel blessed that I get to spend so much time with Addie before she leaves for college. She’ll be ready to get away from me by then!

Addison Cathleen Peter, you are a rock star. I hope you enjoy this graduation season with your friends. Life will never quite be the same, but it will be exciting. You will be pursuing an amazing career, making new friends, and making new memories. You’ve done everything you needed to the past four years, and taken advantage of every opportunity. You’ve shown great leadership, compassion, and determination. You’ve never followed the crowd, and been true to yourself no matter the consequences. You have taught us so much. As you enter college, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, share your ideas, or stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Take the lessons you’ve learned along the way and make the world a little brighter. We will always be here for you, and will continue to be your biggest cheerleaders. Congratulations!

Left: This week’s Honors Program

Right: 8th Grade Honors Program

addiehonors Addison Principal Award