Only one more week until our daughter goes back to university and we will be empty nesters once again. It has been great having her around as I adjust back to USA living after our 5 months in Melbourne, Australia.
I think that the two of us were a bit nervous about how the summer would go. Sometimes we get along wonderfully and sometimes not so much. At the beginning of the summer, she joined us for our last three weeks of down under living. It was great fun showing her ‘our’ Melbourne. We enjoyed taking her wine tasting (drinking age is 18 in Australia!), hanging out on Hamilton Island by the Great Barrier Reef and island hopping in Indonesia. Toward the end I think that she was ready to come home and see her friends. Traveling alone with your parents when you are 18 is not always a ton of fun.
Once back in CA we fell into a nice rhythm, well as much as a rhythm as I can find given that I was away four different times in the last 2 ½ months. In fact it was my daughter who held down the fort, taking care of the cats and working regular hours.
Of course we had our moments as we figured out how to live together after her 9 months of independence away and our time alone in our home. This involved the obligatory moment of craziness when we insisted that she tell us where she is going and with whom even though, as she correctly pointed out, we have no idea what she is doing while she is away at school.
I was forced to share that dirty little secret with her that most parents put off until their kids grow up: parents are human and we are not always rational.
It would have helped if I had shared this before all the shouting and door slamming, but once I figured it out, she was able to understand that our caring and needing to know isn’t a statement about her as much as it is about us. Learning to see our parents as human beings and figuring out that we are not the center of their universe is a part of the growing up process. And she is well on her way—so much more so than I was at her age.
And so we are sending her off next weekend, for her second year of university. She will live in a different time zone, different climate and once again begin her strident march of independence. This year she and two friends will be living in an apartment on campus, and thus will be even more autonomous.
Last weekend she and I were having a coffee at Peet’s, when a parent of a toddler next to us, remarked that she couldn’t imagine her son moving across the country for college. And it made me remember that her being able to go so far away is a sign of our success as a family. Roots and wings is not just a pithy comment, it is one of the goals or values of how my husband and I brought up our kids.
We want them grounded and independent. We want them to be able to find their way in the world, knowing that they came from a loving family. We want them to be able to move across the country with excitement and we want to be able to put them on that plane knowing that they are prepared. And so it goes.
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