After a couple of decades of child-rearing, from changing diapers to warming midnight bobbies; reading Brown Bear Brown Bear and Goodnight Moon thousands of times a week; watching Bambi, Road Construction, Mary Poppins, Dumbo, Robin Hood, Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid enough times to memorize the entire script and every single song from each and every one of them; to Legos and American Girl, Pokemon and Ninja Turtles, from KidPix to NeoPets and SIMS; junior soccer to T-ball to Little League to ballet to piano lessons; all up through grammar school and summer camps, middle school and homework you couldn't understand, to the beginning of the gradual disappearance of high school and then, just when the little monkeys start to evolve into bona fide human beings...*POOF*! All that's left is a lonely stuffy on the bed, some old CD cases, and a closet full of mementos that you now crawl through, a silly sentimental tear rolling down your nose. Now what?
1. Get a Harley, or at least a Gold Wing, and savor your new-found independence. There are dozens of AARP biker gangs that you can hook up with (provided you can handle the initiation ceremonies and don't mind a little casual sex with strangers) and the slick feel of that skin tight black leather wrapping your sags and bulges into a svelte, streamlined picture of youthful vitality flying down the open road will have you singin' "Born to Be Wild" like a drunken Rotarian on a meth binge.
2. Indulge your fantasy hobbies, the weirder the better. For example collecting miniatures, arranging them into cute domestic scenes, and prominently displaying them around your house, will keep visitors on their toes, especially your kid's friends. Doing the same with the family sex toy collection will have a similar effect.
3. On the flip side, pretending that you're interested in hobbies like belly dancing, skydiving, bungee jumping, big wave surfing and ferret-legging will send a clear message to the kids that, despite their best efforts, they did not completely destroy your wild and crazy inner child.
4. Try sleeping, for a change.
5. If you're still hangin' with your kid's co-creator, it's highly recommended that you stop calling him/her "Mom" or "Dad" now. While their real name is a perfectly acceptable substitute, coming up with something edgy and hip (like RazorGrrrl or dePackage) will contribute to your new-found youthful vitality. (Remember "Grandma" or "Grandpa" might be right around the corner).
6. Express how you really feel. You've had leeches sucking your bank account and your schedule dry for 20 years, you've been living a life of indentured servitude and you need to make it clear that there's no going back. Commandeer their bedrooms, build that man-cave or love-nest that you've always wanted. Your kids will love sleeping on the Naugahyde sofa in the entertainment center.
7. Make plans to travel to exotic locales and go on dangerous adventures. Precede these trips with instructions for accessing the safe deposit box. Even if you secretly end up going to Scottsdale, the kids should get the message.
8. Don't hang around with your old crowd and talk about how great your kids are. Instead, have a gripe session where you all acknowledge what screwed up offspring you have. If one couple keeps insisting that their kids are perfect, take them out and spank them.
Remember, the stranger your behavior is when your kids come for a visit, the less likely it is that they will want to hang around for any extended period of time. (Going on a bender isn't a bad idea.) Make the most of this brief period of independence.
You have to gird yourself for the feelings of grief and rejection you might get when the kids go gallivanting off with your credit cards. Though it may feel extreme, if you spend more time reflecting on what a pain in the ass your kids have been and that your life has been hijacked for 20 years, it should go a long way in numbing the real pain you probably have watching your baby birdies fly beyond the blue horizon to go make the same damn mistakes you've made. But you'll be glad you kept the Lincoln Logs, the Tinker Toys, the train set, the PlaySkool pirate ship and half a bookshelf of Dr. Seuss on hand because just as surely as night follows day more little monkeys are likely on their way.
Jeb Harrison is a practicing father and the author of the novel Hack, a page-turning chortle warbler. He is also the proprietor of "Adventures in Limboland", home of similar silliness and of no redeeming social significance whatsoever.