One of the many traditions that my husband and I are establishing as we eke closer to becoming empty nesters is that we have a Saturday morning date where we read the newspaper together. Pots of coffee are brewed -- his rich and strong with liberal amounts of cinnamon and mine the opposite, with lots of milk so that I can gulp it down when tepid. He pores over the first sections of local, national and international news and reads every single editorial and letter to the editor.
I start from the back of the Winnipeg Free Press and savour the "Random Acts of Kindness," the home section (even though we are not in the market), all the career listings (even though I am not seeking a job), the lengthy features of the FYI (Feed Your Intellect) section, the pull out book section (of course), the obits and a little Saturday feature that I love entitled "Streetstyle" where the paper randomly intercepts someone that they think looks well put-together and interviews them about their wardrobe. I am secretly hoping that I will one day get stopped so that I can brag about all of my designer label bargains picked up at my favourite women's co-op shop in the North End, my support of the Nygard business (I know that this one will raise some eyebrows), my exquisite hand-crafted jewellery from my daughter's beau and my sentimental items obtained in Europe, Israel and Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
The other reason why our newspaper reading styles complement each other is that my husband loves a neat and tidy paper to read through and I am more haphazard and chaotic: I pick up and throw down pages and sections, as I go back and forth to my laptop to look something up, record a thought or reserve a library book online. I often begin my reading in the morning and then get distracted and take on a project, coming back to finish it later in the day as my "reward" for a task completed.
But because I know that he is very fastidious about his newspaper reading, I earnestly shelf my "style" in favour of his. This seems very "un-liberated" of me, doesn't it? Well my intention is, that because I know that this is important to my husband of over 28 years, I can "speak" his love language to him and show him how I cherish him, with this small gesture.
Another trait of our recent years is that hormones create early mornings for me. I could be finished the entire paper by now but I have left it completely intact for the time that I hear him coming down the stairs. The paper has already been delivered (literally hucked) at our front door. If I hadn't already been awake and sitting here in a pool of artificial light, I would surely have heard the thunk from our upstairs bedroom. The art of newspaper delivery has changed over the years, but I will leave my observations of that story for another day.
Kath's quote: "Jessamine recoiled from the paper as if it were a snake. 'A lady does not read the newspaper. The society pages, perhaps, or the theater news. Not this filth.'
'But you are not a lady, Jessamine--,' Charlotte began.
'Dear me,' said Will. 'Such harsh truths so early in the morning cannot be good for the digestion.'"
― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel
Gone is the detritus of your children's lives scattered here and there, carelessly flung about and forgotten. Your bathroom towels will stay hung neatly on their bars, the dishes are placed in the dishwasher instead of left to sit next to the sink. Beds remain made, floors remain clean, clothes are neatly put away. Mystery spills vanish, and you never wake up to a mess. Who knew it could be like this?
Some couples decide that it's time to separate and move on, others remember why it was they fell in love in the first place -- or find new reasons and ways to connect to each other. Without your kids, you become each other's only companion when you're at home. <em>It can't be overstated how much of a distraction our kids are while they are growing up.</em> This is probably the most jolting part of the empty nest -- when you look at each other and think, "Oh wow, it's just us now." For better or worse, it will happen.
No longer are you waiting for the sound of a key in the door, or the porch light to be turned off upon your children's safe return from another night out. No longer are you part of the day-to-day ups and downs of your children's lives ... no matter how often they may text/call/email/facebook message/tweet you. Their mental and physical well-being, though still hugely important to you, are their responsibilities now, and you no longer have the minutiae of their daily lives to think about like you did when they lived at home.
If your kids are in college, or even if they're not, you may still be paying for them to eat. But it's nice to go to the grocery store and come home with the things you want, and not have to buy all the things they want, things that you really don't want in your house.
Initially, this may be disturbing or difficult for you to deal with. You may want to do things you've missed -- museums, movies, theater, travel or you may not want to do much of anything at all. Whatever your thing is, there's now time to do it ... a lot of time.
No longer do you have to socialize with other parents because of your children's connections. No more booster club barbecues or committee meetings, making small talk with people you most likely never would have crossed paths with if it weren't for the fact that your children were on the same team/in the same class/part of the same group of friends.
Your children leave home and, for better or worse, they have to grow up, no matter how much help you may be giving them financially OR emotionally. There are just too many daily things to manage, too many random people to deal with, too many bumps and blips that they have to encounter on their own that leads to them, inevitably and sometimes painfully, growing up. It can be liberating when kids take over, driving or planning or explaining -- giving up some authority is in many ways a big relief.
There's nothing quite as wonderful as seeing your kids after weeks or months apart, especially when they first go away to college. Their faces are familiar and beautiful, their smiles just for you, their laundry ready to be washed...it's such a thrill to have them home for holidays, or summers, or a weekend visit. Within minutes of their return, it's as though they never left. You love having them home for a while, but then...
Remember before kids, when you would dream and plan for the rest of your life? Remember when it was wide open, and you had no idea what would happen next? Well, you can do that again, now that you're an empty-nester. No longer do you have to worry about childcare, or kids missing school, or whether they'll like the place you pick to go on vacation -- your time, your future, and your life is yours to create. Always wanted to travel? Now you can. Go back to school? Now's the time. Write a book? Get cracking. You have your life to live, just as they have theirs. Go do it!
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