My third child is packing up to fly the coop, far, far away, into a new time zone. He’s following in the footsteps of his older siblings and — with his remaining brother left behind in his final year of college — leaving me precariously close to being an empty nester.
I probably should be sadder but I just can’t muster the melancholy. In fact (looks over shoulder, whispers), I may be getting a little giddy.
Listen, I love my children with the heat of a thousand suns but once they get to the age where they can drink, smoke, call an Uber and get audited by the IRS, they really need to go.
I realize this is not a popular sentiment. I scroll Bragbook Facebook. I’m in the minority. I know I’m supposed to fawn over my flawless children and applaud their every waking moment and be their BFF 4eva. But I can’t. I’m just not that kind of mom.
I was raised in the unsupervised ’80s and I am well-schooled in the importance of independence. I know that spreading their wings is paramount to their growth and I fully support their journey, no matter the bumps, bruises or late fees that come with that.
Plus, I’ve done my part. I’ve done my time. I have nurtured and guided them to the best of my ability into educated and (ostensibly) responsible adults and on most days you can find me beaming with pride (and duly boasting all over Facebook). But on the days when the fury of a dozen stacked dishes in bedrooms blurs my vision, the cold hard truth prevails. Nothing good is going to come from them staying under my roof no matter what hardships await them outside my door.
I don’t need to hear how tough it is for them compared to back in my day. I get it. Times have changed and these kids are indeed a strange new breed. They’re taking a longer (maybe more meandering?) road to get to where we were at their age.
Their generation isn’t rushing off to get married right after college (or gasp! earlier) like we did and they most certainly are not planning any gender reveals before they’ve ridden the bull in Nashville for their 30th birthday. Sheesh.
When I want to see their eyes glaze over, I tell my kids all about my first mortgage at age 26. Then I follow it up with a little ditty about squeezing out my fourth baby just in time before having to withstand all those scary DNA tests — mandated at the crusty old age of 35. They love hearing about the olden days. World history is fun!
I am fully aware how expensive life is for a 20-something. I know all about the student loans and the astronomical rents and the $20 drinks at the club.
But allowing my adult kids to stay comfortably in my home without a plan of progression doesn’t help them at all. There is such a thing as being a little too comfortable. And if you have enough disposable income for sports betting and ski trips and brunch every single Sunday, sorry, Mama’s gotta do her part to help you redirect some of that mimosa money.
I don’t want them to have such a pleasant and cushiony lifestyle that it stunts their life skills. I insist my working kids contribute to this household (because they should) but their paltry contribution to my grocery bill isn’t enough of a life lesson. They need more. They also need another ― a different — voice asking:
You gonna just leave that there?
Did you remember to pick up toilet paper?
Have you sent in your rent payment yet?
Don’t get me wrong, my kids are absolutely delightful. But in my home they are messy, they are lazy and they have absolutely no idea how much their parents do for them around the clock.
Fully stocked linen closets. Brewed pots of coffee. Leftovers. Poof. Like magic!
I am super excited for all the new experiences that’ll help them uncover these marvels. What a moment, realizing adulting is tedious and mundane and, ugh, redundant. (What? Out of detergent again? Already?)
Until they become fully independent, they really don’t have any skin in the game of life.
My daughter was a scary slob when she lived here. Her bedroom mirrored a crime scene and her bathroom rivaled a NYC subway in the ’70s. Not long after graduation, she settled across the country with a big-girl job and a grown-up place and a couple of equally employed roommates.
After a few months in her happy adult environment, the call came. She was frustrated at the mess her roommates were leaving. Dishes out for days. Toothpaste rimming sinks. I beamed across the cell towers. See that. Skin in the game. She was proud of her fancy apartment and her expensive furniture and — BAM! — suddenly mess mattered and It. Was. Awesome.
Now that Kid No. 3 is leaving, I’m getting a little woozy thinking about all the wild and wonderful life skills he will soon start to experience.
Like food shopping.
I cannot wait until you have to buy these I whisper to myself in a Disney villain voice, watching his every morning routine of whisking three eggs into sautéed veggies.
And then I think I cannot wait until you have to clean this — literally everyday — as a portion of that same omelet swishes out of the pan and onto the stove, forever unnoticed and forgotten in its little graveyard in the burner.
It’s time. My little chick needs to fly.
I’m tired of the wet towels on the floor, I’m tired of having silent sex in my own house, I’m tired of walking past rooms reeking of weed, I’m tired of beer cans in the shower stall and I am completely tired of all the unopened mail sitting on the counter for weeks at a time. If I have to search for my scissors one more time...
I’m tired of nagging my roommates.
I know the haters are circling. I can smell them, the tsk-tskers, shaking their heads nope and wagging their angry fingers, ready to let me have it, the declarers of You will miss this. You will miss them!
And they are exactly right. I will. And I do — I wholeheartedly miss my elder adulting duo, who live both near and far, yet outside my walls. But our time together is genuinely joyous now. I am elated with every visit and every minute I spend time with them brings a new burst of pride I thought I’d already owned and conquered. They are living independently and ― a bonus ― also giving their ol’ mom super cool places to visit.
Kid No. 3 is making me so proud these days that I don’t even mutter under my breath while collecting all those coffee mugs out of his room.
I cannot wait to send him an air fryer. I cannot wait to visit him. I cannot wait until he Facetimes to ask how to get the dried egg off his stove.
I cannot wait to miss him.
And I cannot wait to get a little misty when he walks in the door for the first time when he comes home to visit.
You know there’ll be plenty of leftovers waiting.
Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and has appeared in HuffPost. A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter, Eyerollingmom on Facebook & @Eyerollingmom on Instagram. Her collection of essays, A Momoir, can be found here.