As a mother of two young VERY active boys, I often found myself saying, “I just want some peace and quiet. Is that too much to ask?” Immediately, my question would be answered when I heard a rapid knock on the bathroom door accompanied by two whiny, squeaky voices saying, “Can I have this…can I have that,” or “He hit me…He took my toy.”
I often dreamed of the peace and quiet I’d get one day. Not having to yell at someone for the 10th time to go to sleep. Not hearing the whining and complaining when I say, “No, you can’t bring those worms from the backyard into the house.” Not running anyone to basketball or football practice. No more freezing on the bleachers during football season. Or melting in the sun during the Little League games. Even, a road trip without hearing, “Don’t touch me…don’t look at me” would have been pleasing to the ears. A candlelit bubble bath with jazz quietly playing in the background, as I read the latest novel. And (dare I even hope) have the occasional uninterrupted phone call.
Then, before I knew it the boys grew up. They went away to college.
Graduated and started living their own lives. I had finally gotten the quiet I wanted. But for some reason it didn’t seem as PEACEFUL as I had dreamed. I know it sounds strange but as much as I wasn’t sure I would survive them, I sometimes miss those crazy, chaotic days.
Now, it’s that time of year where many families find themselves packing up the SUV to take their “child” to college. After surviving most of the teenage years, part of you is glad to see them go, while the other part of you is, praying they would decide to stay home for at least one more year.
It can be difficult having them leave home. We spend most of our adult life taking care of, loving, worrying, praying, and sometimes crying over them. That little human, who at one point never wanted to let go of our hand, has now applied to colleges located in a different time zone.
The other day, I watched my usually stoic cousin’s eyes fill with tears as she explained how she and his dad were dropping off their son at college in the next day or two. Her face was filled with a combination of love, fear, pride, and knowing that nothing would ever be the same.
But if you think back on it, as parents, we have been trained for this day all along.
Recently, I watched a co-worker cry her eyes out as she explained the excruciating pain of coming back from maternity leave and having to leave her daughter in day care.
I listened to a friend, her voice thick with emotion, as she explained how she is trying to spend every moment she can with her daughter. Because this time next year she’ll be off to Princeton and onto Medical school.
I remembered when my sons were in Elementary school, all the mothers watched as a father dropped off his daughter on her first day of Kindergarten. She went into the building all smiles without a care in the world. The father? Not so much. He literally just stood there with his face pressed against the window pane as her teacher escorted her to the class room and introduced her to the other children. If it wasn’t for Sister Mary Stevens shooing him away, he’d have stayed there all day, keeping a close eye on his little girl.
I truly cannot believe how quickly time flies. It seems like only yesterday, when I seriously considered buying a gas mask so I could SURVIVE going into the boys’ room after they and their overnight guests had a farting contest during a sleepover.
And now one of my sons is telling me about the handyman he and his wife hired to do odd jobs in their new home. While the other son discusses dropping off his daughter at day camp and going back-to-school shopping.
After finally getting the peace and quiet we hoped and prayed for many of us are surprised to find out that silence is not always golden. We miss the noise, the chaos and the need to feel needed.
As empty nesters we cannot mourn the days gone by or be filled with regrets. Wishing we did this; wishing we did more of that. We need to take whatever time we have now and make each moment special. Make each moment count.
We also need to take advantage of this new peace and quiet. Use it to get to know ourselves better. Get closer to our spouse. Take up a hobby. And basically take care of ourselves.
Enjoy the peace and quiet while you still can, because the holiday break will be here before you know it. And just be grateful that Social Media wasn’t around when we were in college.