When children are off to school

By  Michele Faux, Catholic Register Special
  • January 4, 2008

{mosimage}I didn’t run the dishwasher today. Surprisingly, Veridian Electric didn’t come to the door to congratulate me for cutting down from three times a day most of last summer. Nobody left the porch light on all night, either.

I didn’t run out of milk this week. There’s a bag of chocolate chip cookies in the cupboard and, last time I checked, there were still a few cookies left. We’re eating leftovers for lunch, supper and lunch again because shopping and cooking for a crowd seems a hard habit to break.

When the phone rings these days, it’s actually for me. Well, OK, most of the time it’s someone selling doors and windows, but when it’s not, then it’s someone who can pronounce my last name and doesn’t begin with “How are you today, Ma’am?” Even better, my voice mail messages are still there: unchecked and unforgotten.

When I reached for the shampoo in the shower, it was there and nobody had taken my towel, either. When I went to do laundry, the washer and dryer were empty and I didn’t have to sniff my way through stacks of clothing, playing the “dirty or clean” game. The house is tidy, the beds are all made, and things in my house are — should I tell the truth? — really quiet and just a bit boring.

We’re not exactly empty nesters but it feels that way when the youngest three go back to school. Our 25-year-old twins still live at home. One stayed at home while attending university but talks of moving now that she is working. The other did leave for five years and has returned home to pay off student loans. He thinks we got along better at arms’ length (or however far it is from here to Hamilton). We like each other but will be better friends when he has his own space once again.

The other three children communicate through frequent e-mails and occasional phone calls. The phone calls are usually about a problem that needs solving but the e-mails are usually chatty and often funny. My youngest is on a strict budget and thanked us for the groceries we sent. He only had to buy milk and beer last week.

I miss the long conversations around the table and the impromptu dancing in the kitchen. I didn’t miss the eye-rolling and being told I’m old-fashioned and judgmental. I do miss the insight into youth culture that helped me connect on my job. I don’t miss the tears but I do miss the occasional bit of yelling. Where else can you shout and still remain friends?

It’s a time of change for all of us. I’ve just noticed someone sitting way at the other end of our really long kitchen table. I think it’s time to take out a couple of leaves from the table and reconnect.

(Faux, a mother of five, is a Contributing Editor to The Catholic Register.)

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