Sh** You Can Do When Your Kids Leave Home

One of the things my husband and I have been doing since our kids left home is visiting them. So, this is one of the amusing things you can enjoy doing when your kids go off to college somewhere, or start jobs in other states. Most of the time, you will be welcome by your children because you can buy them meals. That’s assuming that you’re not still supporting them, and they appreciate a nicer dining experience than the dollar menu at a drive-through. Here are some tips to help you with future visits:


We just got back from visiting our daughter and her roommates in Conway, Arkansas. She goes to Hendrix College there and decided to stay through the summer. When visiting college students, it’s always good to remember that a college living experience is very different from an adult living experience. I’ve noticed that young people have much greater heat tolerance than those of us in middle age who may be suffering from occasional hot flashes. My daughter also informed me that they had seen a snake crawl through their apartment. The Best Western has never looked better to me.


My other daughter was in Denver at AmeriCorps training when the tragic shooting happened in Aurora. I woke that morning to the news of the tragedy and had a brief, sickening moment of sheer panic and fear. It would not be out of the realm of possibility that a group of young people from AmeriCorps would go to a midnight showing of “Batman.” I texted her and, of course, she was fine. As an empty-nester, you will find your heart jumping into your throat for many reasons, from tornadoes to car accidents, so it’s best to stay calm and let reason be your guide.


In Arkansas, we drove over to Little Rock to the art museum. Loved it! And adult children actually like going to art museums. In fact, it was their idea! I recently went to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum with my son and my middle daughter. Fabulous! Since my son lives in Dallas, he guided us to an excellent Mediterranean restaurant. As I watched people at a couple of other tables wrestle with small children in highchairs, I felt amazingly free. No naptimes to work around. No giant diaper bags. No tired toddlers. The only person crying was me when I left.


It’s up to you. I know there are parents out there who talk to their kids every day. I’m not one of those. I’m not sure what I would say to my kids every day. I’ve found that I can have a much nicer conversation if we limit our contact to one or two times a week. But if you’re one of those people who is posting every move you make on Facebook, it may be hard to break away from the technology, so use your own discretion. A sign that you may be over-contacting is if your calls always go to voicemail, or your texts are not returned, or you can hear the eye-rolling in their voices when you call. If I haven’t heard from my kids for awhile, I may send a text like: “Have you entered the witness protection program? Let me know your current contact information.” With my son, we’ve established a pretty solid “every Sunday evening” phone call. Even if we don’t have much to say, we make the connection.


Don’t let it hurt your feelings that your kids actually make decisions on their own. That’s the whole point to growing up, isn’t it? When I drove down to Austin with my daughter, I thought (actually, I just ASSUMED) that I would get to meet one of her future roommates who was already down there. She “met” three AmeriCorps roommates through an Austin AmeriCorps Facebook page that she set up, even though she hadn’t actually met them in person. I naively said, “Let’s go meet your roommate!” when we got down there. She said, “I really think I should go on my own. I don’t think the first time I meet my roommate, I should be with my mom.” Point taken. She was right, of course. It’s amazing that our kids can do the following all by themselves: Find housing, enroll in classes, get themselves out of bed, find jobs, send out resumes, make friends….. Besides, I certainly don’t want my kids to be clones of me or my husband (as wonderful as we are). How boring would that be?


Ouch. This one is so hard for me! After all, I know EVERYTHING. (please read that sarcastically). Fortunately, my kids are pretty good at telling me to back off. Even though it can be hurtful, it’s for the best. And I’m well-meaning. I just want to make things easier for them. But, then, I think about when I was in my early 20s and how much fun it was to discover life — including making my own mistakes.


Being without children at home has many advantages besides being able to go visit your children in interesting places. I’ll write more blogs about Sh** You Can Do When Your Kids Leave Home in the future.

Categories: Editor’s Blog