5 Tips for Parents of Graduating Seniors

Here’s a story I wrote a few months before I officially became an “empty nester.” Many of my friends are going through the transition from full-time parents with their kids graduating high school and starting the next phase of their lives. This story is for anyone facing the empty nest or having their oldest child graduating high school. Trust me, it gets better and you’ll learn to love some “me” time.

I’ve written about the top 10 things kids need to know before leaving for college. But, what about us? When our kids leave, it’s a drastic change in our lives.

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When we took our son, our oldest child, to University of California Santa Barbara, I was strong. I was emotional about moving him into the dorms, but I was excited for him, too. I loved college. They were some of the best years. I was excited for him to love it, too.

But, then we said our good-byes. It hit. Like a punch in the stomach. Then, the tears. Oh, my! I wasn’t expecting that. The drive home, my younger child, age 15, looked at me in horror. I was falling apart. Thank goodness for her riding in the car with me. I probably would have wailed like a complete idiot without her staring at me.

 

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My son on our friend’s sailboat during orientation weekend.

Now, I have a few months left before I face a totally empty nest. What did I learn the first time around to prepare me for this time?  I wish I knew some secret to make it easier.

During orientation, UCSB gave parents a few tips on how to parent your college kid. This is what I remember:

1. Give them space. Don’t hover, don’t call too often, never call before 10 a.m.

2. Set up a time to make calls on a weekly basis — and not more often than that.

3. Expect them to get homesick. It’s natural they will miss home-cooked meals, their own room, their friends, pets, and you!  Reassure them that this is normal. They tend to get homesick around six to eight weeks. It will get better. They’ll adjust. But, will you?

4. Be sure to send a few care packages. Their favorite cookies, toiletries, something to make them smile. Mid-terms and finals weeks are ideal times to mail care packages.

5. Take time for yourself! Write, paint, sew, take a yoga class. Do something every week for just you. Make a list of things you used to love doing, but through the child-raising and working years, haven’t found time to do. Make another list of things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t. You’ll find your way.

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The quilt I made my son out of his swim tee shirts.

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

 

 

 

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Changes on the home front

59756764_10219573479551388_7700711190170697728_nI am excited with the changes to our home–and feeling nostalgic. This past week, we had painters in to update the kids rooms from the way they’ve been for the past 15 or so years. Our son’s room was a bright white to begin with. I had my daughter’s room painted pale pink before she was born. Then as they neared the teen years, the colors got bright.

My son’s room turned into what’s known as a Delaware blue complete with a world map on one wall. My daughter went hot pink. That didn’t last long. She eventually went with two shades of teal, her favorite color.

59418919_10219566377893851_6780426138180124672_nWhat stayed constant was the deep blue tiki bathroom. When we moved into our house 25 plus years ago, I loved the tiki bathroom. I still do actually, but it was looking more than a little ragged. For example, some of our recent horrific rains came through the ceiling vent and stained the ceiling. We had quite a discussion of what to do with the bathroom.

My son said I could throw out whatever I wanted in his room. I saved a few things, but the majority of books, DVDs, CDs, school work, trophies, etc. went to Angel View, our local charity where you can dump–I mean donate–all your unwanted junk. My daughter wants to go through her things before we toss. She hasn’t been out of the home technically for a year yet, so I guess I owe her that. But I’m on a roll. It feels really good to lighten our load of knick knacks, stacks of books, DVDs, electronics and extra furniture. I like the new look of off-white bedrooms and a pale blue bathroom.

It also feels sad. I miss all those years when I had bedrooms with wild colors and my children.

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How do you know it’s time to downsize?

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The view from my back door.

We are thinking about selling our empty nest — the home we moved into 27 years ago — before kids. We started off just the two of us, plus a dog and cat. Now we’re thinking about leaving.

When my husband first brought this concept up, I burst into tears. “But my babies! I had my babies, here!” I blubbered with tears running down my cheeks. Actually, I had my two children in the hospital, down the street, but you understand. Our family was raised in this house. It’s filled with memories of them in a basinet, crib, bunk beds, to the big beds standing empty now in their rooms. Kids coming over. Christmases, birthday parties, swim friends hanging out. Senior prom pictures and all.

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My daughter using the tub to stand.

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My son in his bedroom.

We went looking and found some gorgeous new places to live. It’s kind of exciting, but overwhelming to think about leaving. Cleaning out the house is a project I’m not looking forward to, either. My dear friend Cindy left her giant home and downsized ahead of me. She said “Once you start purging, it grows on you.”

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My view writing on my laptop.

My son is fighting us tooth and nail. According to him, we’re never supposed to sell California real estate. The property is by all rights his and his sister’s — they’ve laid claim to it. Interesting, I never looked at it like that. I’m wondering if they can afford the AC, the pool man, the gardeners, all that stuff we’ll be hoping to get rid of in retirement. I never thought I’d want to sell, but maybe it’s time?

What are your thoughts about selling the family home and down-sizing? When is the right time?

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My back yard 27 years ago.

Would you sue your kids?

 

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My kids, who haven’t yet come home to live with us.

Did you read about the parents who couldn’t get their 30-year-old child to launch?

Arwa Mahdawi wrote about it in The Guardian, in “New York judge orders man, 30, to move out of family home after parents sue:”

 

Michael Rotondo, who reportedly moved back home eight years ago, issued with eviction order after he thwarted parents’ efforts

During the hearing on Tuesday, state supreme court justice Donald Greenwood tried to convince Michael Rotondo, who reportedly moved back home eight years ago, to leave the family home in Camillus, near Syracuse, of his own accord. But Rotondo, who represented himself in court, argued that he was entitled to six more months of living with his family.

Greenwood called this demand “outrageous” and served him with an eviction order. Michael, in turn, called the eviction order outrageous.

Suing their son in state supreme court was a last resort for Christina and Mark Rotondo, who have spent the past few months sending Michael formal letters asking him to leave.

In a note dated 2 February, which has been filed in Onondaga county supreme court, they wrote: “Michael, after a discussion with your mother, we have decided that you must leave this house immediately. You have 14 days to vacate. You will not be allowed to return. We will take whatever actions are necessary to enforce this decision.

In an article in the Denver7, “How long should adult children be living in their parents’ homes?” Marc Stewart interviews Denver residents on their opinion:

A judge has ordered a 30-year-old man in New York state to move out of his parents’ house, after a short legal battle.

The case involves a 30-year-old man who was ordered to leave his parents’ home amid complaints he didn’t help with expenses or chores. Appearing in court, the man argued he was not given sufficient legal notification to vacate.

“A six-month notice is reasonable amount of time for someone who has been depending on persons for support,” said 30-year-old Michael Rotondo.

The dispute is prompting discussion from many points of view here in Colorado.

“I think it depends on each individual family. But we like the fact that our kids went to college and mostly didn’t come back!” said a woman named Anne, who lives in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood.

Others are more judgmental.

“My thoughts on that is shame on him. Because a man should be able to stand on his own two feet,” said Ben Duda.

Yet the reality is that a growing number of grownups living are home. According to Pew Research, 15 percent of millennials are now living with their parents. That’s up 5 percent from Generation X.

I have my daughter home with me now, but she’ll be leaving early in June to study abroad, and then move out of state to start her career. I’ll miss her terribly when she leaves. My son went from college at University of California Santa Barbara and shipped his belongings via AmTrak to the Bay area and drove up there from school. I almost wish I had more time with them. He’s asked to come home for awhile so he can apply to grad schools. It is always wonderful when they come home to visit. But, I’m not sure how it would be with them living here full time. I think it means we’re succeeding with our parenting to have them fly from the nest.

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With all their future dreams ahead.

 

What do you think about the parents suing their son? I wonder why they felt it was a last resort? 

3 Things I Noticed About An Empty Nest

I wrote this after my youngest left the nest in 2014. It’s 2017 and the nest is still empty, but we get visits now and then. We’ve planned trips to see both kids this fall and I’m looking forward to the moments we get to spend together. All in all, the empty nest is not that bad! Here’s what I noticed the first few months with no kids to take care of:
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Towels

Let’s start with towels. First off, we own too many of them. I gathered our towels into one room and separated the wheat from the chaff. I asked my son Robert if he needed any. I recall sending him off to college four years ago with a small set of matched towels. He’s survived with those two towels all this time? Plus, a beach towel of course — since he goes to UC Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

Eighteen towels and two dozen or so hand towels and washcloths sit on his bed, awaiting his return Thanksgiving weekend. These 18 towels didn’t make the cut to remain members of our family — unless they commit to being shredded into rags.

images-3The next thing I noticed about my towels is that I’m no longer washing them every time I turn around. Raising two swimmers as well as overly hygienically-conscious kids, I believe they went through four or five towels daily — each — which never got a second use. I no longer have to hear the thump, thump, thump of my washing machine doing a jig with the over-packed, heavy towel load.

images-5Groceries

Have I mentioned that I raised two swimmers? We joined the Piranha Swim Team around 1999. I honestly believe that having my kids involved in swimming was the single best thing we ever did as parents. Sure, the kids worked hard. Yes, it was a time commitment. But, I will repeat, it was the single best thing we ever did. You can find a lot of my articles about the benefits here and here and here. Read what my friend has to say about swimming here.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

So, what does this fact have to do with groceries? Well, it means I bought a lot of them. All the time. Robert drank a half gallon of milk a day and a box of Cinnamon Life every two days. Kat could eat whatever she wanted and she liked my sole, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and brown medley rice. At least I think she did because I was always cooking and buying more groceries.

Life-Cinnamon-Detail.sflbToday, my refrigerator is bare and I rarely cook. There’s no reason to buy more than three items at a time at the grocery store. When I enter the store, I don’t need a cart. I use the little hand-held basket.

images-4Dishes

 I cannot seem to get a load of dishes to wash for the life of me. My sink is empty. My dishwasher sits bare and lonely.

I guess that’s what they make Thanksgiving weekend for.

This is a photo of Kat. She didn't want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

Why Kat joined the swim team. “I don’t want to be a ballerina!”

The importance of friendships in an empty nest

 

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Back in the busy days of parenting with the gang.

I had a great day yesterday with two of my former elementary and middle school mom chums. I hadn’t seen one of these friends for we figured out—12 years! Where did those years go? They went to busy, busy days of parenting with our kids going on separate journeys and different schools.

One thing all three of us decided at lunch, at Spencer’s one of my all-time favorites, was that we have to get together more often.

How often do you say that to people and it doesn’t happen? Well, all three of us are empty nesters, and we’ve managed to stay busy—but it’s different. I miss the interaction with my friends who were the moms of classmates or swim mates. While you’re in the thick of parenting years, you have all the interaction with other adults every single day. You don’t think about it or that one day it’s just you and your husband staring at each other!

Seriously, sometimes I feel that doing what I always wanted to have the time to do—write uninterrupted every single day—can feel like solitary confinement. I’m not a terribly social person, but without the chats on the playground, play dates in the park, or sitting with fellow swim parents at meets and practice—it’s a quiet life.

So, in addition to swimming Masters with my swim friends, I’ve made a pledge to not let my older friendships slip by. I’m glad my friends agree and we’re going to actively work to get together more often.

And I’ll treasure the time my husband and I have together and to go on new adventures together—as well as the ability to write without interruptions from the kids. It’s a good life, after all—but friends make it even better.

 

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More adventures to come….

What do you do to make sure you stay in touch with friends?

 

7 Things I Miss About My Daughter Now that She’s in College

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Here’s a story I wrote after moving our daughter out of the house into her college dorm. As she begins her senior of college, I enjoyed re-reading my thoughts about the empty nest.

We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.

My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.

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Kat swimming

I miss her cracking my back. She could give me hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.

I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.

I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”

I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.

I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”  And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.

Yes, I miss her.

What do you miss most about your kids?

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Kat making an entrance into the room.