2006.11.15 Parenting adults is a whole new hurricane

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I’m feeling kind of empty lately. The last baby bird is chirping away, preparing for departure. Oh, there’s a full nine months before the final launch, but that’s going to fly away faster than she is.

Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to it with great expectation. Dread is more like it.

Oh, it might be kind of fun when showering, to reach for the shampoo and find only three containers to select from instead of 16.

And I’m practically trembling with excitement at the prospect of the “rat” in the drain not visiting us as frequently. Maddie says she never brushes her hair, so I don’t really understand how so many light brown strands find their way down the drain, only to collect en masse into the “rat” that routinely blocks the passage of water.

When she leaves, I won’t find evidence on the handtowel that she brushed her teeth with lots of toothpaste (Why can’t she just wipe her mouth with water?). And I won’t have to keep the midnight vigil, waiting to make sure she’s returned safely home on weekend nights.

But, I’m really going to miss a kid in the house. There’s the noise and the mess, of course, but that’s more than offset by late night snuggling on the couch channel surfing Leno, Letterman, and Kimmel. Reading college application essays and thinking any school will be lucky to get her. Coming home from work and being greeted with the smell of freshly made waffles. Bedtime hugs and kisses.

My children are well on their way and my role as a parent is somewhat superfluous. I’m happy to have three kids meeting with success in their current endeavors. But, dang, I just wish they weren’t doing it so far away.

Ben enjoys life in Miami, loves his job designing for a landscape architecture firm, kayaking in Biscayne Bay, sampling cuisine from many international restaurants. During impending hurricanes, I’ve worried about him. He’s the boy who took photos instead of cover during the near tornado that toppled trees in our yard back in May of 2000, while the rest of the family was trapped at the middle school award ceremony.

He’s now the man who talks about kayaking in the Everglades. He has no fear of alligators or hurricanes, whereas, much as I love his angry sky and lightning photos from 2000, I ponder daily why he didn’t take the job offer in Atlanta.

Rozee called home the other day from school in Berea, Kentucky.

“Guess who will be living in New Orleans in two years?”

“Taylor got accepted?” I said. “That’s wonderful!”

Her boyfriend Taylor had applied to Teach for America, and just found out he was assigned to New Orleans. He graduates in May and Rozee will join him after she graduates the following year. They plan to marry sometime that summer and Taylor will finish the second year of his commitment.

“Oh, no,” I said, after the excitement wore off, “That means I’ll have two kids in hurricane land.”

“Well, at least one of them will know to leave,” she said.

I laughed, imagining her evacuating and Ben hanging around to take pictures of the sky.

And Maddie, Maddie is filling out college applications, trying to figure out what she wants to do, where she wants to go.

My kids are well on their way to adulthood. And I am just muddling through middle age, trying to keep up.

When Rozee came home for a visit soon after becoming engaged, I noticed a card on our entry dresser. Congratulations on your engagement! it said inside, or something like that.

They make cards for engagements? I was quite surprised. Should we have gotten her one?

They don’t plan to get married until after Rozee graduates from college in 2008. Do we put an announcement in the paper already?

“I need a how-to-parent-in-the-later-years book,” I emailed Rozee. “What to do when your sweet little baby girl gets engaged at 20 and you're still thinking she's 18. Protocol for life with adult children. Responsibilities and expectations. etc. etc.”

Do they write books on this stage of parenting? My Google and amazon searches produce unsatisfying results. A few books on the subject, but nothing stellar. Hmm. Maybe the publishing world is trying to tell me something? Maybe it’s time to cut loose completely?

How empty is that?

    -November 15, 2006 
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