Empty Nesting is Not for the Faint of Heart

I swear to you, as God is my witness, that I turned my back to make my eight-year old son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and when I turned around, he had graduated high school and left for college.

This is not hyperbole.

Well, okay, it is. But I swear it feels like it’s true.
I cannot believe it’s nearly time for him to leave already. I can’t believe all the school pictures that I have been painstakingly placing in the photo albums through the years are now finished. I hold the final and last one in my fingers. This photo of him grinning–so self-assured!–in his tuxedo and too-long hair (a little senioritis rebellion) is the endcap for his school years that began with the  mother’s morning out that he and I pretended was “real” school, because he went with a backpack and a snack and came home with praise from the “teachers” and excited reports about the other kids on the playground—particularly fascinating for an only child.
And now he’ll be “coming home” at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I feel like turning to my husband and saying: “Did you know there was an end date?” Why don’t they tell you that when you bring your little bundle of joy home from the hospital? “Hey, New Mom, word to the wise.  He’s already plotting how to leave home.”
While it’s true I have a couple months yet before we pack John Patrick’s bags and shop for his dorm furniture, I already see previews of the life to come in how his older friends, home for the holidays last year, behaved (so grown up!) and in John Patrick’s impatience this spring with his last few months of high school.
I  promised myself that I was not going to be one of those clingy mothers who refuses to let her child stretch his wings and fly the nest. I want my son to have an awesome college experience, maybe meet someone special who we’ll all grow to enjoy and love.

But until then, I totally reserve the right (when he’s not present to witness it) to be as sad and bereft as I know how to be at the ending to what was, honestly, the happiest and most fulfilling eighteen years of my life.

I know he’s literally counting the weeks until he goes. He’s anticipating the official beginning of his new exciting life. That’s as it should be. His Dad and I will wait for him to come home and report on his new world, his teachers, and new friends. Before he leaves again.

And it figures, the dog he leaves behind doesn’t even like peanut butter & jelly.

View from a Nearly Empty Nest

I hate to say it, but the facts are stark and irrefutable: we have too many animals.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they were self-sufficient dear little things but they all have major baggage which they unpack and throw about the room on a daily basis. The cats are, well, cats. Their love is contingent on whether or not you gave them “the wet stuff” that night for dinner or let them outside to sun on the deck (they are indoor cats) or in some way did something for them. And it’s a pretty paltry sort of love, I have to say, when it does come. Cats aren’t clingy and for that I’m grateful. But they’re not particularly affectionate either (at least ours aren’t) and it makes you wonder why you pay all the vet bills and Meow Mix and God knows, tons of kitty litter. Really doesn’t seem to be the kind of payback that you’d expect for all the effort and money. Having said that, we are, of course, attached to the aloof little beasties, but ideal pets I cannot say they are.

So the cats, not so much. And les chiens? Well, Buddy is beautiful but stupid which doesn’t matter, really, because he’s also desperately sweet. But he has none of the beneficial dog traits you use to reason why you have a dog for all the trouble. He doesn’t greet you when you come home (he doesn’t even lift his head off the couch pillow), he doesn’t sleep with you at night, he sometimes forgets that it’s the outdoors where he’s supposed to crap (WTH…??) and he will eat cat litter (and all that that entails) if there is any way possible. Euweeeu.

Then there is Lucy the Puppy. Also known as Lucy the Terrible and Lucy the All-Powerful who is, on the other hand, really, really smart. Like Lex Luther smart or some other mad, evil genius. Lucy, who is a Westie, tortures the poor cats—fearlessly and tenaciously attempting to rid the household of what she considers Grade A vermin. She destroys everything she comes into contact with—newspapers, slippers, measuring cups, dog and cat toys, eye glasses—in seconds and irrevocably. She does, on the other hand, go totally berserk with happiness when she sees you after any kind of separation (Buddy, take notes.) She considers it part of her job to “pre-rinse” (with her tongue) the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and she informs all chipmunks, squirrels, mice, birds, bunnies and even a good sized coyote to stay clear of her yard. (Come to think of it, she’s also had words with the mailman.)

I confess I often wish I didn’t have quite so many lovies. All the water bowl filling, litter box changing, dog leashes, unique needs, prickly personalities, special diets, accidents, varying bed times and crate times—is wearing me out. My husband is quick to remind me that I was the one who got us into this fix (three of the four were foundlings) with all their diverse and discordant personalities.

On top of that, they all somewhat hate each other, with the exception of Lucy who’d like to do her rat-terrier thing on the cats’ necks but who loves Buddy in a very scary, stalking kind of way that has the poor dog hiding under sofas and behind chairs when she’s on the loose.

While I admit I have told my husband that we will never replace a single one of these beloved creatures when the time comes for us to forge on alone, I have to say I’m rethinking that promise. It’s not that any of the little darlings is any more perfect. God knows, if anything, the older they get, (like people) the more entrenched their personalities and habits become. I’m not sure but it’s possible my change of heart may have something to do with the sound of my only child shuffling through his college acceptances for next fall.

Maybe a Cockatiel.