2 Ducks. 2 Universities. 2 Weeks.

My daughter graduated from college on Saturday and my son will graduate in two weeks. If you read this blog regularly, you know they are twins and we were jumping with joy a year ago when my daughter’s university finally listed the graduation date and it was different from her twin brother’s! (Whew!)

We arrived home Monday from traveling two states away for her special day. My youngest flew up from Virginia to the Midwest to see her sister graduate, flew back for her final exams and will return home later today. My son drove from his university to meet us. It was a whirlwind few days of travel for all of us. The coordination and planning culminated in a joyous weekend of eating, celebrating, shopping and just having all-around family fun. My son and husband even squeezed in a round of golf before we jumped in the car and headed home.As I was looking at the photos from graduation weekend, I zoomed in on my husband’s eyes which looked really tired. Every photo I’m in with my precious graduate…well, this Mama’s had better hair days. Let me mention that the school decided at the last minute to hold graduation outdoors (we assume due a popular commencement speaker drawing a larger crowd) where it promptly began raining and held tight to a solid 49 degrees. I cursed myself for rising out of the cozy hotel bed at 6am to bother curling my hair :).

I suppose I could blame the rain and long road trip for our fatigued images in the photos, but this past weekend was our 5th travel weekend out of the last six. While I largely work from home, my man had to be up and out every Monday morning following lengthy road trips and one trip by flight. The flight was to see our youngest in Virginia, which truly held multiple blessings for which I thank God for them all. One of course was the weather, which I couldn’t help but share with you here. We watched her play field hockey for her university and we also had fun spending time with her friends who are hilarious and thoughtful kids who are really making an effort to honor God in their young lives.Then, other than one weekend at home, we drove back and forth, staying in hotels another three weekends to see graduating daughter in all her “final” celebrations. Last major competition for her DII lacrosse team. Senior day for lacrosse. The fashion show where she designed and sewed two complete outfits for the runway where two models wore her clothes. She’s a business graduate with majors in fashion and entrepreneurship. While she attended a private university, she spent last year attending FIT in Manhattan and interned with an international fashion house as part of her program. The girl who couldn’t wait to move to NYC has decided that she will never live there again :). And, she was in a trendy, very nice area… but still too noisy for her!

Two weeks from now, her twin and my son, will take his turn walking across the stage, graduating from his university an hour away from hers (thankfully, an hour closer to home!). All three ducks will be home together only for 24hours before my youngest leaves for her 9-week summer job down south. In the meantime, the nest has already filled in with my graduated daughter having piles of clothes, etc., strewn everywhere. This afternoon, the house will close in even more as my youngest pulls in the driveway with her own mountain of dorming stuff. The homecomings bring me happiness as the nest fills with life and action again. Being the deep thinker that I am, this change and activity also makes me marvel at the speed of it all.

I mean, seriously? Four years have passed since moving my twins into their respective universities? There is much to think about and reflect upon, and I already shared a bit of those thoughts with you here.  Since that post, I’m feeling less melancholy which might have something to do with them arriving back in the nest (wink).

This summer will hold another adjustment as my daughter moves out of state to her new career (after she just moved back in Monday) and my son has decided to live at home permanently while working in his first big boy job and saving money.

As I consider these upcoming “adjustments”, my mind travels to the young years when “adjustment” meant moving from baby food to solids…dropping them off for full-day Kindergarten…leaving them in the Sunday School nursery even though they were crying…

Those were small potatoes. At the time, they were monumental potatoes, but not compared to the reality that these are the final few years (if that) before they move out for good and eventually marry, building their own nests: When Your Kids Near Marrying Age.

As we embark upon yet another new parenting season of having adult children – college graduates – who now live at home for a time, I’m grateful. I’m thankful for card games and board games. Summer dinners on the backyard table. All the usual things we tend to do during the summer and I don’t stress over too much any more. I think I wore myself out during the teen years (wink) and learned the hard way to trust God at every turn.  I’ve learned that the only steady, ever-present Rock that will never change or shift or move is the One Who knows us best. Who loves us just as we are, right where we are. Ready to help us navigate and enjoy all the fresh waters we’ve yet to explore as parents of adult children.

Thanks for catching up with my nest-news today. I wish you a happy weekend :).

 

 

 

The Coming and Going During the College Years

Nearly three months ago, I walked through the brisk November air into the sliding glass doors of the airport, traveled up the escalator and stood outside security, waiting for my youngest to get off the plane. It was two days before Thanksgiving and my hands had not been on my baby girl in 88 days. It was the longest separation ever, me feeling impossibly emotional, despite that we speak, text and facetime every day. It’s just not the same as hugging and being in the same house.

With each new wave of people rounding the corner through the glass hallway, my heart leapt and my eyes grew wet.

I missed her something awful. I see my older two because their universities are within driving distance, but it was too long since I had seen my youngest.

A girl in a ponytail wearing a college backpack turned the corner and my heart leapt again – then fell – when I realized it still wasn’t her.

A little boy ran past the security guard and toward his grandma’s waiting embrace next to me. I silently prayed, Oh Lord, when grandchildren arrive someday, please let my children and their children all live near us…preferably next door ;~).

Washing bedsheets, putting turkey-themed socks on their dressers and cooking family-favorite foods…the days of anticipation finally ended. The second she turned the corner she waved through the glass and hastened her steps toward me. I vowed not to cry but she threw herself into my arms which quickly circled her slim athletic frame, and I couldn’t speak. Tears flooded my face and I squeezed her tightly. I kissed her cheeks and her eyes smiled at me, her words bringing more tears. “I missed you so much Mama…”

Last year my older daughter spent her junior year in a bustling – thankfully also a safe and very nice – area of New York City. For breaks and long weekends, I waited to pick her up at train stations and airports. As I stood watching the various people disembark from their transportation, I reflected on how I have never been on planes as frequently as the kids have been. Much of the going away is very, very good for them. They have been forced to handle situations that without a doubt, my husband or I would have taken care of swiftly for them if they lived at home. Heck, most of the experiences would not have occurred at all had they stayed home and commuted to college (as I did throughout my entire college career). Some of the situations were unpleasant, but life was an excellent teacher. Their greatest lessons and growth occurred outside of the classroom.

During the kids’ breaks, the full nest is a joy (and of course, sometimes annoying), and now that my twins are seniors, the holiday breaks remind me that these are adults, despite my continued reference to them as my “baby ducks”.

At 4am the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the painful alarm rang, announcing the required departure back to the airport.

Thankfully, I only waited 15 days until my youngest was about to again ‘round the corner and I stood outside security, not feeling nearly as emotional as when I waited 88 days. This time, all three of them would be home over a month.

The day before, I had cleaned their bathroom and put up the Christmas shower curtain. As the rag hung in my hand and the smell of cleanser filled the air, I reminded myself that secure, confident kids grow up and start doing their own thing. I’ve been told we are supposed to feel accomplished and proud of ourselves when we reach this point. I am proud of them and they are accomplished, but I have never felt more un-accomplished.

While raising children, there are a million little accomplishments…interesting middles with satisfactory endings. Planning birthday parties or end of season sports gatherings…watching them eat meals together and sharing stories at the table…going to the rinks and fields…weekend outings. Completing a book together when they are young or watching them deliver a speech when they are older (that you sat through 20 times before they gave it)…each gave me tremendous joy and satisfaction. I felt accomplished.

In between their physical coming and going in and out of the nest, I have increased volunteering, have plenty of girlfriend time, bible studies and winter walks with my husband. We now have “TV shows” and I’m actually finishing books cover to cover ;).  I’ll admit that quieter hasn’t been terrible. It’s all truly blessed and I am thankful. But adding more new things or extra time spent on old things do not replace an entire lifestyle.

An acquaintance of mine looks at me with a mix of complete confusion and sympathy as I reference the heart-upset of the coming and going during the college years. Two years ago, she told me she was counting the days – literally had a countdown like you do at Christmas – counting the days until her youngest would join the oldest at college and get out of the house. I thought she would feel differently when the house was actually empty, but she does not.

Those of my friends who prioritized their careers while raising their children are faring much better with their emptying nests. Although I’ve always been an adjunct professor, it’s vastly smaller than the 50-hour work weeks while climbing to VP, where the bulk of their life’s energy built an entire existence outside of their households.

It’s only been a little over a year with all three away at universities so I keep saying I’m running a little late to the party of parents who are celebrating their emptying nests. Perhaps I’ll revisit this topic again in June after my twins move home after graduation. I may not be feeling nearly as nostalgic (wink).

The truth is, throughout the “coming and going” over four years, they’ve grown and changed, and so have we. Parents must learn to navigate the “babies” we raised who are now almost full “grown-ups”. Even when they move back home, for however long that will last, “family life” will not be as it was. Just as the school years were different from the toddler years, and high school different from middle school, the dynamic will change yet again. Not worse or better, just a new chapter in this ever-updating book of life.

While I stand in the airport this afternoon to pick up the baby duck for spring break, I’ll be thinking about these comings and goings. Reminding myself that it does get easier, and as they evolve, so must I.

Photo: first2board.com

My Empty-Bucket List

Bucket-List-movieThrowback Thursday 5/31/2013

For many years, I’ve conducted an activity with my college students, asking them to create their own version of the famous “Bucket List”.  I warn them that the list should not include professional goals necessarily, but rather focus upon the “really neat”, “exciting”, “extraordinary”, places, events, activities, etc., that they would like to someday accomplish, see, experience, etc.

Funny that it has never been asked in several years of teaching it, but recently one of my adult students asked for my own top three bucket list items. 

I stammered.

I stuttered. 

My thoughts raced to my age, thinking about how I should not only be able to rattle off my top 10, but should have checked off a few by now.

After class, I tried hard to mentally arrange a list for myself.  I thought about visiting Europe, but other than that, I struggled with the possibility of having anything to look forward to.  (The proverbial bucket list obviously does not include the graduations of my kids, their weddings, etc., but rather a catalogue  of personal interests.)  Each “really neat”, “exciting” or “extraordinary” thought that came to my mind was instantly squashed by my ever-present pragmatism.  How could I leave the kids?  How could I ever afford that?  Who am I to dream so big?

Once upon a time, in the much-younger version of myself, I fantasized big.  I not only planned goals, dreams, and future achievements, I fully expected them to happen.  The closest I’ve come to creating any meaningful list in recent years is our annual Summer Bucket List.  The content changes the older the kids get, but we make the list, post it on the fridge, and cross off as many as possible by late August.

My student’s question was innocent, he simply being curious about me as a person. Something that exclusively pertains to my personal interests is no longer even a thought.  I have so immersed myself in the tending and nurturing of the nest, that I have forgotten to dream at all.  I realized that afternoon that I have taken my kids interests and adopted them as my own.  This past Easter, I bought a painted, tin bucket at Joanne’s, bought a stuffed dolphin to go inside of it, and hung it from the top of my 16-year old son’s Easter basket handle.  I had purchased a family dolphin swim at Discovery Cove because my son has a bucket list (unlike his Mother) and swimming with dolphins is (was) on it.  

While I’m happy to have fulfilled that dream for my son, it never even occurred to me that I should plan something for myself.  My husband has always wanted to restore a muscle car.  Five years ago, despite a fat mortgage and credit card debt, he took a few thousand, bought a needy 1969 Cutlass Convertible and restored it to mint condition.  The beautiful finished product was no match for the sheer joy that man received every day working on it.

The ponderings of a 40-something Mom, I guess, but one student’s innocent question gave me a summer task:  creating my very own Bucket List.

My Empty-Bucket List

Bucket-List-movieFor many years, I’ve conducted an activity with my college students, asking them to create their own version of the famous “Bucket List”.  I warn them that the list should not include professional goals necessarily, but rather focus upon the “really neat”, “exciting”, “extraordinary”, places, events, activities, etc., that they would like to someday accomplish, see, experience, etc.

Funny that it has never been asked in several years of teaching it, but recently one of my adult students asked for my own top three bucket list items.  I stammered. I stuttered.  My thoughts raced to my age, thinking about how I should not only be able to rattle off my top 10, but should have checked off a few by now.

After class, I tried hard to mentally arrange a list for myself.  I thought about visiting Europe, but other than that, I struggled with the possibility of having anything to look forward to.  (The proverbial bucket list obviously does not include the graduations of my kids, their weddings, etc., but rather a catalogue  of personal interests.)  Each “really neat”, “exciting” or “extraordinary” thought that came to my mind was instantly squashed by my ever-present pragmatism.  How could I leave the kids?  How could I ever afford that?  Who am I to dream so big?

Once upon a time, in the much-younger version of myself, I fantasized big.  I not only planned goals, dreams, and future achievements, I fully expected them to happen.  The closest I’ve come to creating any meaningful list in recent years is our annual Summer Bucket List.  The content changes the older the kids get, but we make the list, post it on the fridge, and cross off as many as possible by late August.

My student’s question was innocent, he simply being curious about me as a person. Something that exclusively pertains to my personal interests is no longer even a thought.  I have so immersed myself in the tending and nurturing of the nest, that I have forgotten to dream at all.  I realized that afternoon that I have taken my kids interests and adopted them as my own.  This past Easter, I bought a painted, tin bucket at Joanne’s, bought a stuffed dolphin to go inside of it, and hung it from the top of my 16-year old son’s Easter basket handle.  I had purchased a family dolphin swim at Discovery Cove because my son has a bucket list (unlike his Mother) and swimming with dolphins is (was) on it.  Yep, I went into debt to make that happen as his 16th birthday gift.  You can read my long review here if interested: TripAdvisor.

While I’m happy to have fulfilled that dream for my son, it never even occurred to me that I should plan something for myself.  My husband has always wanted to restore a muscle car.  Five years ago, despite a fat mortgage and credit card debt, he took a few thousand, bought a needy 1969 Cutlass Convertible and restored it to mint condition.  The beautiful finished product was no match for the sheer joy that man received every day working on it.

The ponderings of a 40-something Mom, I guess, but one student’s innocent question gave me a summer task:  creating my very own Bucket List.