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The Empty Nest – a Hurricane of Change

Leaving your son at school for the first time might be stressful for some parents, but writer Suzanne Fluhr embraces the changes of the Empty Nest. For one thing, no one complains that there’s no food in the fridge, just “ingredients.” Read more from Suzanne on her blog, Boomeresque.

 

At the supermarket, I breezed past the sports drink aisle. There was no guessing about which color drink I needed to bring home for any teenage boys. I sashayed down the cereal aisle without worrying if any Earth mothers were giving me the Evil Eye as I reached for the Froot Loops; I was only buying some nutritionally correct whole grain cereal for my husband.

The frozen food aisle was also a cinch, with no concerns about what type of mini-pizzas to buy or whether they had run out of turkey dinners, the ones with mashed potatoes, not stuffing.

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Once home, I put away the groceries. No one walked in, opened the refrigerator, and stood there cooling the universe while complaining that, even though I had just spent $200, there was “nothing to eat” and why did I buy “that color” Gatorade. As I left the kitchen without having to defend my purchases, I noticed the pencil marks going up the wall, recording when each of our two sons exceeded my height, and then their father’s.

As I drove past our neighborhood elementary school that day, I flashed back to when I used to drive by with our younger son strapped into his car seat. Each time, he asked me when it would be his turn to go to the “big kids’ school.” Last week, my husband and I delivered him to the real “big kids’ school,” the University of Miami.

Unlike many of his classmates, our son did not seem to suffer much angst about where to apply to college. He applied for an early decision to the University of Miami, as it met all his criteria for an institution of higher learning. It doesn’t snow there, he didn’t have to take the SAT II, and he could submit an essay he had already written in English class for the application.

As a graduate of a large high school in a Philadelphia suburb, our son had admitted to some apprehension about meeting his roommate, the valedictorian of a 12-person graduating class at a private day school on one of the Florida Keys. Based on our son’s pronouncement that his roommate is “chilled,” I think they’ll do fine.

When we left, they were collaboratively figuring out the best way to configure the power sources for their myriad electronic devices. Moving into my first dorm room was so much easier. I didn’t need a plug for my manual typewriter.

I could not help but compare the lushly landscaped campus, including fountains, with the small, isolated, often frozen New England college his father and I attended. I am certain he can expect more February parental visits than his older brother received at Penn State.

The university treated us to a “free” lunch in our son’s cafeteria. However, the tuition bill was an excellent reminder that there really is no such thing as a free lunch. There was a plethora of food choices and none of the fried mystery shapes I remember as college cafeteria fare.

My maternal antennae did notice that University of Miami sports teams are the Hurricanes, and there are hurricane shutters on our son’s dorm room window. I was somewhat comforted when university president Donna Shalala assured us she had consulted the president of Tulane University in Louisiana, and her university’s emergency plan has no contingency for counting on the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Department of Homeland Security.

President Shalala also tried to allay any parental separation jitters by informing us that we were leaving our most “prized possessions” in good hands. I can’t say I ever thought of my son as a possession – “possessed,” at times, during his Terrible Twos, but definitely not a possession.

As my husband, the dog and I adjust to our empty nest, we wish our son Godspeed as he enters this new phase of his life.

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, <a href="http://www.boomeresque.com">Boomeresque</a>. Instagram: Boomeresque2

Valeria Terpytska

Tuesday 24th of February 2015

I so want to go through the empty nest experience, sounds so exciting, but how, my son is a student, but lives at home, plus I have six dogs, they live at home as well. Looks like the nest is rather cosy and noone wants to fly away.

Suzanne Fluhr

Friday 12th of September 2014

Last night while we were having dinner in Vienna (Austria---not Virginia), our travel blogger son called from the Czech Republic. He swaps out SIM cards from country to country. When I was in college, I didn't call home until after 11 p.m. when the long distance rates went down---and then it better be really important. On the other hand, I wrote letters to my parents and they wrote to me. Different times.

Billie

Thursday 11th of September 2014

We've been "empty-nesters" for over 2 years and haven't minded it at all. Skype and Bolt Bus have made our plight so much easier than when I was away at college. I didn't see my parents for 6 months at a time and long distance phone calls were prohibitively expensive. (Gee, I must sound like a dinosaur to anyone under age 20). We're able, however, to see our son regularly over the Internet and the quality of our conversations is focused because of his time constraints. Inexpensive bus fares between Boston and New York enable him to pop home for long weekends in between the holidays. These are some of our most treasured moments.

Leora

Thursday 11th of September 2014

Suzanne, even leaving my eldest in college for round number 3 (he's a junior) is still hard and strange. This summer for the first time my daughter went to sleepaway camp. My husband and I went on a mini-one day plus vacation. If that's how empty nest feels, hey, I'll take it. But truth is, I love having all three of my children with me at the dinner table.

In terms of devices, my son sends me links, and we order pieces on Amazon as we go. Much different than when I used to reserve time on the mainframe to write my senior thesis.

Suzanne Fluhr

Thursday 11th of September 2014

One of the pleasant surprises of the empty nest was rediscovering our relationship beyond Mom and Dad.

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