One more weekend with my younger son, then off to school Monday, Spit Spot!
I been through this Empty Nest business, I don’t want to get into that pit again, but I’ll say, enjoy your parenthood while you can. I do not want to hear you complaining about doing their laundry or the food bills or their friends hanging around. I like being a mom, it’s what I’ve been doing for 25 years, and I’m probably going to keep doing it until I circle into the grave, like an old dog looking for a bed.
My kids have their problems, and it always feels good when they call me or my husband to talk about it. It also feels good when they call – or better yet, send a funny picture via cell phone – to say things are going good, ask us what we are doing. Sometimes I can tell, they just miss us.
Warms the cockles of my frozen old heart, yes it does.
One thing I worry about is do they eat right. I hate to be a nag, you know me. Luckily my older son and his girlfriend put a lot of energy into gardening and eating fresh foods, and they even get their meat from local producers. They send us pictures of meals, and we send them pictures of meals – it’s the next best thing to eating with your kids or friends, share pictures of some wonderful meal you’ve come up with, and then another of yourselves shoveling it in at the table.
The younger one is learning to cook for himself, but admits, when he has money, he finds it very tempting to eat out. He likes the sit-down restaurants, the family style joints, but still remembers being up all night with his girlfriend when she got sick after a meal at a restaurant. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of e-coli or salmonella, it’s just a matter of badly made – maybe too much of some rich ingredient, like creme or some spice. Of course that made them think more about cooking for themselves – nothing gets your attention like fear of food poisoning, you know, RIGHT NOW!
You can’t teach your kids everything – I love those public service ads about brushing your teeth for two minutes – in comparison, parents try to tell their kid every important lesson of life in two minutes. I got it – we all brush our teeth for two minutes now, but I can’t train them for every situation that comes around the pike.
Oftentimes I’m relieved how well they handle a situation on their own – wing it, like baby birds. The other day my older son casually told me about a problem he was having with a neighbor, but didn’t know how to approach the person. When he told me what it was, I realized – I would have got mad if my neighbor did that too. We talked for a long time about what’s okay to put up with, when a neighbor or friend is worth a little more trouble, etc. I was impressed that my son was putting himself in other people’s shoes, he tried to see the neighbor’s point of view, and decided – if it’s that bad, move away, otherwise, mitigate, learn to live with it.
Last year my younger son was “dorm cop” at his school living facility. They call it “community advisor.” You never know what to expect out of a new job, I tried to put aside irrational fears. But the stuff that happened was beyond anything I could imagine – one boy taking hallucinogenic drugs and going on a tirade in the middle of the night, breaking light fixtures off the walls in the dorm, screaming and yelling and being combative with friends. My son and other students called the police, then my son went out into the hallways and followed the boy and his friends from a safe distance, watching the police arrive and take the boy, who was subdued at the sight of the cop cars, off to a local hospital. My son had to go to the police station, as a representative of the school, to file a report about the incident.
Another time, he and a couple of other students had to go to the police station to report that one of the dorm residents had simply disappeared, they hadn’t heard from him, and were worried. The police handled them nicely, but they were kept waiting at the cop shop for hours. They boy was found to have got drunk and been arrested another town over, too embarrassed to call his folks, he was still cooling his heels in a jail cell.
I felt bad for the parents of these kids, but we’ve had horrible tragedies in Chico, I hate to recount the stuff that’s happened just over the past few years. I just feel lucky, my kids keep close, they talk to us.
One day I watched a brood of phoebe birds fledging in my back yard, it pricked at my heart, it was such a human scene. The bird parents fed the babies at first, but suddenly they started flying away when the biddies approached, refusing their desperate little pleas. They still sat by, always close, sometimes leading the babies to their favorite perches, showing them how. Slowly the babies caught on, the air was full of SNAP-ing beaks. But one little tyke, bless its heart, still screeched along after the parents, begging and begging. The parents refused it again and again. Its little wings seemed so inadequate for the squatty fluffy body.
At one point, it landed in the windowsill where I sat at my desk, and began to pick bugs from a spider’s web. I was impressed with the ingenuity, just when its energy was flagging, the little wings seemed to be giving out. After that quick meal, it seemed renewed, the tone of its little screech was different. Little phoebe flittered out into the herb garden, and grabbed a yellow butterfly. Then, still a clumsy little fledge, it floundered onto a valerian branch and sat with the yellow wings sticking out the corners of its mouth. After a moment or two the wings dropped away, the rest of the bug was swallowed, and the last I saw of the little bird was a flurry of fluff.
I don’t want my sons to flitter away. I like them to go out in the world and come back home to roost a little.