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?

 

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To Thine Own Self Be True — Or Facing the Sad Truth that Kids Grow Up

My baby girl's first Christmas photo.

My baby girl’s first Christmas photo made it on the cover of the monthly parenting magazine.

My daughter is coming home for Christmas break tomorrow. I’m excited and a little anxious. Her last final is today for her first semester of college out of state. I’ll admit that I stalk her on Facebook and Twitter. She doesn’t look like the same little girl who left for college in August. When I talk to her on the phone, she doesn’t sound the same, either.

I remember going to orientation with her last July at the University of Utah. There was one talk I especially liked, “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development.

Ellingson said that during the freshman year our kids learn to become themselves. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes. They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels.

You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!” Which makes me wonder — who has the ear cartilage piercings (and now my daughter asked about getting one!) Why does she tweet that she wants to dye her gorgeous red hair brown? Is this why she’s best friends with a couple teammates one week and then inseparable with a new one the following week?

Thanks to Ellison, I can see she’s quite normal. I may not like it. But, she’s trying out new things to find out who she is. It’s going to be my job to not make a big deal out of the little things. I can’t keep her my little girl forever.

My daughter and teammates at JOs a while back.

My daughter and teammates at 2006 Junior Olympics.

This is what I have to say about finding out who you are: “To thine own self be true.” Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you know is right. Be your own person. I’m afraid she’s working too hard to fit in. By being herself, she’ll fit in where she needs to be. 

I am standing back and watching my little girl grow and develop into an independent grown-up woman. It’s not easy.

You can read more about the highlights of Ellison’s talk here and I wrote more about “To thine own self be true” in Three Things to Tell Your Daughter on Graduation Night.

Sailing in Santa Barbara.

Sailing in Santa Barbara.

I wrote you a letter….

Twice this year… It’s happened. We knew a friend was sick. One was 92 years old. The other was 57.

We wanted to tell them how much their friendship meant to us. But when they got sick, they didn’t want to see anyone. You have to respect that.

“I’ll call and talk to him on the phone,” my husband said about our 57-year-old friend. He never reached him by phone. 

Yesterday, we heard from his family that he was in hospice. My husband said, “I’ll write him a letter. I’ll tell him how much his friendship meant.” He immediately sat down and wrote it. The last time we wrote a letter like this was to our 92-year-old friend. Family members told us it arrived in the mail the day she died. She never had the opportunity to read it.

My husband ran this letter over to the family’s house. Literally. The brother said thank you. The brother thought it would make him feel good to read it. But, he said, he’s not seeing anyone outside of family.

My husband and I went for a walk. We walked and talked about our friend. This life thing is so fragile. We take it for granted sometimes. When I was 21 years old, I walked across a street and got hit by a truck. It made me realize how uncertain life is. A car almost hit us when we crossed the street last night. I screamed out loud. I can’t help it. It’s residue from my encounter with the pick up truck.

Life goes on. You get married, raise kids, drive kids to swim practice, sit on PTA boards, help with homework and have your own work to do. Pretty soon you can forget how fragile life is.

The end of the story. We finished our walk and returned to our house. The letter my husband wrote to his friend was stuck in our gate, unopened. It could only mean one thing.

Make sure you tell the ones you love — I love you while you have the chance.