I’m excited my college children will be home for an entire month this holiday season. Really. I am. Seriously. A whole 30 plus days! Yet, in the three short months since my youngest departed, I may need to get reacquainted with my parental skills which surprisingly left me the minute my husband and I merged on the freeway after dropping our son off at his new home for the next four years. It was like a first date! We were giddy, away from our parents, and we could go anywhere as long as we were home before curfew. In this case, our curfew was Christmas break.
But now, as the strike of midnight is suddenly near, reality and motherhood looms. Other than my frequent trips to BevMo, I haven’t set foot in a grocery store since, well, mid September. I haven’t made a Sloppy Joe, bought milk by the gallons nor visited the cookie aisle in all that time. Not once. In fact our refrigerator now serves as the wine cooler I’ve always wanted, chilling 38 bottles of chardonnay comfortably rather than the warehouse supply of Gatorade, pudding cups and lunch meat. While on this subject, I must admit that my oven hasn’t reached a high temperature in months. Instead, I have discovered this particular appliance is an ideal storage unit, and today holds inside an excess of beach towels, and an unused SAT prep book. Believe me, it’s not as sad as one would think.
Okay, but back to how excited I am to see my children. Life really hasn’t been the same since they all left. It’s been one painful adjustment after the other. My poor washing machine now only sees a load or two of laundry once a week instead of the daily multiple uses. That mega sized detergent I purchased at the beginning of October out of habit? Yeah, I’m still using it. My dishwasher only cleans the occasional bowl used for cereal or popcorn, and yes, a wine glass which means it’s turned on as frequently as my vacuum, which is never. I happily cancelled my Costco membership when I realized that even though my children may come home again, why encourage them to stay when you have an overfilled pantry filled with their favorites? And let’s talk about vehicles. Guess what people? When teenage drivers aren’t around, it’s amazing how clean your cars stay! Void of fast food wrappers, empty water bottles, sports equipment and schoolbooks I must admit my cars now look much like myself – ten years younger.
But perhaps best of all, I’m actually getting a decent night’s sleep. I no longer stay up, bleary eyed, waiting for that magical hour when my child better return safely home so I can stumble into my bed. Sitting up nights in anticipation for the endless texts begging if he can stay out a little bit longer because “everyone else can,” is a distant, faded memory. I figure that’s now the college’s problem, you know, the one I pay an incredible amount of money to each month. I rest comfortably realizing they will let me know if something is amiss. Let me put it this way: that whole concept I struggled with last summer, wondering about the dreaded empty nest, worrying about what I would do after raising children for 24 years, fretting that my goodbyes would result in a meltdown resembling the fetal position until the Christmas break? Well, that was a big ole waste of time.
So now plane reservations are booked, and I’m imagining what my first true, honest to goodness, face to face, textless conversation with my son will be like – all 30 seconds of it – before he asks for the car keys. And that’s okay. As long as he doesn’t open the fridge looking for a healthy snack or request a home cooked meal. With my daughter, who is returning home a week later from her final year at her teaching program, it’s a completely different story. When you see the light at the end of the college tuition tunnel for a child, you almost find yourself doing the ugly cry when they talk about job opportunities, polishing up resumes and considering job interview attire. In other words, you are excited to hear what they have to say because you realize at some point, the conversation isn’t about money.
Yet I imagine that in the middle of their month long visit, I may like having them around again. I’m wondering if I will go back to the dark side and ponder what I am going to do without them after they leave. Then I will glance at my refrigerator, which during the break, will be back to storing copious amounts of Gatorade, pudding cups and lunch meat, while listening to the hum of my washing machine in the background, and wondering what kid has what car and how much gas they left me.