How It’s Supposed to Be

The past three weeks hurried by in a whirl of Christmas and New Year’s and entertaining and visiting and cooking. Our daughters arrived home within two days of one another, the older one staying for two weeks and the younger for three. When they arrive we immediately notice the accelerated energy level in our house. Each has a distinctly unique personality, yet together they still remain the silly sisters, the giggle girls, and the best of friends. I wish that will always be so.

family-webNow these moments are recognizably temporary, and that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I would not trade those two for anything in the world. I would not give up a single day as their mother or an ounce of love or a moment of frustrated or joyous parenthood. I am grateful for the temporary because it sometimes forces conversations that are more meaningful. We can discuss emotions and situations and watch their body language while we learn how they feel and what they think.

The past few years during their academic careers and as the elder one spent a full post-grad year living abroad and another living under our roof we have watched them grow into interesting and thoughtful adults. They have left and come back and left and come back and left and come back. Just as we would get used to the quiet of a two-person household, one of them would return for a weekend or a school break or a summer. Those returns set the cycle in motion all over again. We have learned to welcome them with open arms and hug them tight when we say goodbye.

It’s a little stressful getting ready for these visits, almost like having company. Not that our daughters will ever count as company, but we have found that it’s a little easier to let things go when it’s just the two of us. Meals are less formal, the clock is more flexible, and we tend to make more spur of the moment decisions. We no longer have to adjust to their lifestyles and schedules. It is, in fact, more than a little liberating to have no children at home.  Some of the weight of responsibility has been lifted.

Our youngest likes to tease that we must really be “empty-nesters” because when she comes home she finds new and different types of food in the fridge and sees evidence that one or the other of us has been working on some project.  She sees this as a time of experimentation for us.  That’s true.  Just as our girls have been trying out their adult life skills and getting ready for a complete move out of their childhood home, we have been trying out life without children. It can be challenging to embrace the changes after spending a couple of decades in full parent mode, but our trial runs have been pretty successful and I have confidence that we can do this.

Now their visits are growing farther apart. As the elder one transitions into a full time job she’ll have limited vacation time, and there are other places she is likely to choose for travel. The younger is beginning her final undergrad semester and is already making plans to spend spring break elsewhere. Her commencement in May is the next time we’ll be together as a family. I have no idea when the four of us will be at home together again, but it may be many months off.

So we adapt once more to a household that is more sedate and introspective. Eventually we will fall back into our routine as a pair. After all, this is how we started out and how we spent many years before our precious daughters were born, even though it’s hard for them to believe we actually had a life back in those days. I’m pretty sure we’ll have one again.

We tried to raise them to be self-sufficient and independent. I guess they were paying attention. But during these first few days following a full house and flurry of activity, I have to remind myself: this is how it’s supposed to be.

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