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Family, Parenting

She’s There. We’re Here. Get Used to it.

Lots of folks are checking in on us these last few days, wanting to know how the transition to “empty nest” is going.

It’s too soon yet to have a good answer. At the moment, it’s surreal. I’m glad we have a long weekend to start to process it all because it will surely be a few weeks before we have any idea what the new normal is supposed to be.


First stop at move-in day: A picture with the school mascots.


Catherine's side of the dorm room.

Catherine’s side of the dorm room.

In the meantime, we’re stumbling through, doing our best to keep busy. We’re tackling everyday chores and errands, deep-cleaning Catherine’s bedroom (I did move in to her desk), catching up with friends, managing a date night where we didn’t have to keep tabs on the time or the child’s whereabouts.

Still, there are lots of changes to get used to:

For the first time in ages, I can buy orange juice that has pulp and no one will complain.

The radio station in my car hasn’t been changed … and the car has gas in it when I turn the key.

We’re not tripping over a DSW’s worth of shoes left all over the house, nor do we have to constantly relocate a collection of papers, lip glosses, ear buds, clothes, etc.

I’ve not had to retrieve any of my clothes or shoes from the bottom of a pile on her bedroom floor.

No “music” is pounding from the rooms above.

There are no crazy friend stories, tales from the latest restaurant shift or camp to listen to, no laughter as she talks to friends on the phone, no latest life plan to dissect over a cup of tea.

And I’ve gone three days with no one begging me to take her shopping.

Frankly, it’s weird.

Catherine, meanwhile, seems to be having a ball.

Hofstra had these terrific welcome posters at the check-in tent. Recognize someone in the upper right?

Hofstra had terrific welcome posters at the check-in tent. Recognize someone in the upper right of this one?

Move-in day went smoothly if you don’t count the hour I spent arm wrestling with an Allen wrench and the small table we purchased to go next to her bed. (It would have helped if I read the directions.)

Her roommate, also named Catherine, is lovely and jumped in to help us unpack.

By the end of the President’s afternoon address to the 1,700 freshmen, she was all but running from us, her eyes begging as we hugged her goodbye, “GO HOME. NOW!”

We did, sitting in nightmare traffic in total silence.

In fact, there’s a lot of silence around here now.

Hofstra has kept her busy with a stream of required and optional activities (she and her suite mates are going on a New York field trip today).

She’s been to a couple of parties, met some new people, picked up her books, discovered the pizza is egg-free and therefore safe to eat, etc.

I’m struggling to keep my advice to myself, trying to let her be, find her own way and make her own decisions without my voice constantly in her ear.

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.


About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.


12 thoughts on “She’s There. We’re Here. Get Used to it.

  1. Wonderful story. Good luck to Catherine. Love the welcome posters that Hofstra did. Did you rent out her bedroom at the house yet? Oh and did you win the wrestling match with Allen Wrench?

    Posted by John Pontillo | September 2, 2014, 7:42 am
  2. what a lovely tale…and now you only have one child remaining at home, some guy you married 🙂 i hope you’ll both “adjust” well to the new normal, and that you enjoy the new normal oj!! hugs

    Posted by Bob Dorf | September 1, 2014, 8:33 am
  3. Sounds like she’s off on a great start! You’re doing a super job! Now I’m off to keep my two little ones from killing each other…someday too soon I’ll be in your shoes. Thanks for telling your story so beautifully!

    Posted by Jackie | August 31, 2014, 8:41 pm
  4. I read this post while drinking my pulpy orange juice. When our grandson was here, or when we spend time with any of our grandchildren, they drink pulpless. Might as well drink Tang!

    I offer our suggestion to eliminate empty nest — we took in dancers from work. They kept their space neat, cooked for Bill, and sometimes for me, did the laundry, vacuumed, did dishes, mowed the lawn. I didn’t miss our kids much! However, I do miss “the boys” as Bill called them.

    You will get used to the quiet, to knowing that things won’t get eaten, or moved, or left around. I promise!!

    Posted by Karen Waggoner | August 31, 2014, 12:21 pm
  5. Sounds like Catherine has settled in nicely. Reading your post reminded me of the days we dropped our children off to University. It is a difficult transition for us as parents, one that takes time. Like you, the quiet is what I found most difficult to adjust to. Our home was always the home where the kids would hang out, so not only did we miss them, when they left the nest. but all of their friends as well.

    On the weekends they would come home, when they left again, I would go through the “process” all over again. My husband would look at me with a look of , “what is the big deal, they have been doing this for some time now” The only way I could describe it to him was that when they are gone, I am fine. I go about my every day stuff. When they come home with all of their energy, their laughter & their stories, I realise how much I miss their presence in our home. To this day, when they pull out of the driveway, I dive into cleaning mode or go for a bike ride until I readjust. Still doing it after all of these years!

    Posted by Lynn | August 31, 2014, 9:20 am
  6. This is lovely, Terri. You summed up the surreal experience of this huge life transition. Thinking of you!

    Posted by momshieb | August 31, 2014, 9:06 am

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