The college kids have headed back to their messy apartments or moved for the first time into their dorm rooms. So how are you feeling, parents? Will you miss those kids?
Other than when our children are born, there's no bigger change in our lives as parents than when our children leave home. It's a shock to the system -- but there are good things about empty nesting, too.
A is for Absence. The absence of kids in your house. The absence of kids at the dinner table. The absence of wet towels on the bathroom floor.
B is for Bedroom. Your kids' bedrooms become temporary stops for them when they come home during vacations. The possibilities of what to do with those rooms - home office, guest room, meditation room -- are intriguing. Don't worry if they feel bad that you've annexed their space. They'll get over it.
C is for Closet Space. As in more. For your stuff.
D is for Dog. If you have one, great. If you don't, get one. A dog is a wonderful, loving being to add to your family once your kids are gone. And the nice thing about a dog is it won't talk back, ask for money or leave your gas tank empty.
E is for Emotions. They will be up and down at first. But you'll get used to your new status as a parent without a child at home to care for, and come to appreciate it, even while you miss your kids. Initially this is very confusing.
F is for Family. Which you still are, no matter how far away your kids may be or how independent they become. A different configuration, maybe, but still a family. It may take some getting used to but it will work.
G is for Garbage. The good news - there's a lot less. The bad news - you have to take it out now - no kids to do it for you.
H is for Husband/other Half. If you're married when your kids leave, you will rediscover him. Hopefully this will be a good thing. If you're not married, who knows? Maybe now's the time to find a new relationship.
I is for Independence. You are no longer responsible for taking care of your kids' everyday lives. You can come and go as you please and focus on yourself after years of putting your kids' needs before yours. At first this will feel odd, and you'll fumble with that free time.
J is for Jumpstart. Your sex life, friendships, your fitness routine, your ho-hum career. Whatever you want.
K is for Kick-Ass. As in, empty-nesting can be kick-ass fun.
L is for Lust. Feeling it again in your empty house. Hopefully with your husband or wife, if you're married.
M is for Money. In the beginning, those college kids are money-sucking machines who need funds for tuition, books, rent and more. Later when they've graduated, there's a nice raise in your disposable income when all of those horrifying college bills are done with. Until they decide to go to graduate school, at which point you may want to say "you're on your own." Or not.
N is for Nocturnal. For many women, empty-nesting coincides with our menopausal bouts of insomnia, and we become night people, playing games on line and searching for others, like us, on Facebook, wide awake in the middle of the night. You may as well have an infant, but you'll just have to wait for grandkids instead.
O is for Outsider. If you spent much of your time while raising your children involved in their extracurricular activities, there may be a little wistfulness at not being part of your community in the way you had been for many years. Or you may be relieved. Either way, it's fine.
P is for Pristine. You won't even believe how clean your house will be with no kids at home. It's like a miracle.
Q is for Quiet. See above.
R is for Reminiscing. Which you will do a lot. And you will also wish you could remember more of the moments you spent with your children. We all should have had video cameras strapped to our bodies all those years. But don't spend too much time reminiscing - there's so much to look forward to.
S is for Sleep. When not having bouts of insomnia, you will sleep more soundly, not waiting for your kids to come back from a night out or listening to them hanging out in your house with their people, eating your food and yelling. That was mostly the boys. The girls screeched. There is a difference.
T is for Travel. You can do this now without worrying about who will watch the children. You still need someone for the dog. You do have one, right? Please refer back to the letter "D" if you don't.
U is for Useless. You may feel this way at times -- especially when your nest first empties and after your kids' visits home. You are NOT useless. You are just not running around doing for others all the time. U is also for unencumbered. And underwear, as in you can walk around your house in it.
V is for Visits. They come back. A lot. And each time you will be a little less sad to see them go. Refer back to letters P and Q.
W is for What the heck happened? How did it all go so quickly? Wasn't I just 18? Wow. Maybe W is actually for wow.
X is for Xcellent. Ok, I know that's a stretch. But if you've got an empty nest, you've done something right. They're on their way.
Y is for Yippee! Because the empty nest is great. And so is having grown-up kids.
Z is for Zone. Comfort, quiet, erogenous, twilight, no parking -- anything but dead. You'll find your zone, if you haven't already.
Previously published on Empty House Full Mind