For years, thoughts of summer would float into my family’s collective consciousness sometime around the end of April. (Depending on countless variables, this start date could vary dramatically. One year, it actually arrived at the end of March – I kid you not. Sadly, a long, wicked winter in the Pacific Northwest can do that to rain slogged family.) My husband, an elementary school teacher, and our three kids would begin to realize that their vacation was just around the proverbial corner. The excited chatter was endless, their impatience with the slow passage of time was, well, a little annoying. But no finger pointing here … I would feel the same impatience. Summer floated out there in the future, an oasis of fun just waiting to be had.
Typically, when they started their hubbub, it was my signal to begin looking into things like basketball camp registration, city recreation department opportunities, and family vacation plans. And secretly, I would start to get equally excited about those months when I would be free from checking homework, mini van miles, and alarm clocks going off at the crack of dawn.
When that last school bell finally rang, I would be surrounded by cheers and yelps from all four of them. (In self-defense, the dog would shoot under the deck. Predictably, the cat was entirely non-pulsed.) The kids would be out of their school clothes and into their play clothes in the blink of an eye. Off they would go to play in the woods, climb the trees, or shoot hoops on the concrete in front of the neighbor’s barn. That night, we’d celebrate with pizza and an extra late bedtime. I have to say, summers with all of them and our relaxed schedule were my most favorite time of the year.
Fast forward to my first summer as an empty nester, something I was not looking forward to it at all. Fortunately, it was a slow transition. They’d be gone for the academic year and then return home for the summer. My husband and I would be fully involved in our own lives between September and May and then one day the house was full again. For the next couple of months I’d lull myself into believing that our family was whole again when, in reality, I knew it would never be as it once was.
But the day finally came when none of them arrived home hungry and with dirty laundry. (To be clear, I taught them all how to do their laundry as soon as they were tall enough to reach the buttons on the washing machine and dryer. It was sort of a rite of passage. Well, that’s how I thought of it … my passage into less housework!) And you know what? That first summer completely free of kids was absolutely wonderful. Motherhood had been good to me and I was now discovering that “empty nest-hood” could be a pretty good gig as well.
Maybe my husband and I did so well because the transition had taken a few years. More likely, we did so well because we’d had been talking about our next chapter for years. Fortunately, we each had interests, activities that when parenting, we’d have to sneak in here and there. But now, the entire slate was clear. It was our summer and we had an absolute blast.
Don’t get me wrong. The highlight of my summers are always those times that include our kids. We’ll zip on down to Sacramento to see our daughters, take a few days to see our son in Portland, and hopefully cram in a long weekend with any number of them at our cabin. There’s even talk of a late summer rendezvous, somewhere, somehow.
This is a great summer so far because the truth is, no matter how much I enjoy the freedom of my empty nest, in my heart of hearts, motherhood will always be my most favorite gig!