Empty Nest? Empty Best! By Jyl Barlow

I know…I know we are all supposed to be offering odes to our college-bound children. I know, as we see the ‘time to move out’ pile grow taller, we are supposed to wholly lean into our feelings of sadness and despair and question how, exactly, we will move on with an empty bed in our homes.

And it’s not that I’m not having all of those feelings.

It’s just that I am having other feelings too.

I was sourcing a smell in the refrigerator when I came across a Tupperware holding a mostly unidentifiable item. Dear lawd, what was that smell? It seemed to have started its life as potatoes and peppers but had since become a new strain of mold. I knew this wasn’t there before my husband had gone away for a week midway through the previous month. This told me the creation was likely made then, while he and I were enjoying some much-needed “couples time” and while my daughter was enjoying some “I am without adult supervision time.”

Truthfully, potatoes and peppers are her culinary earmark. If I’d found moldy noodles, I’d have tagged her younger brother.

And I don’t mind the creations (or the storage) until they enter this hazmat stage. This trick of it is, if I throw the contents out too soon, it is at risk of a one-star momming review that will begin with, ‘Did somebody throw out my potatoes and peppers I was going to eat those someday why didn’t you just ask? UGH!’.

Yet if I leave them indefinitely, we land here, with a Tupperware exposing the rest of the refrigerator to a moldy, pungent brick of sludge.

I guess what I am saying is, in these waning days of having our eldest home full-time, I am starting a second list. The first is of all the things that will tug at my heart over the following months and the second is all those things that I might be okay with sending out the door with her.

Does that make me a bad person? Or does that make me a finder of a new coping skill?

  • I am looking forward to using toilet paper from the mounted holder, rather than enduring a seek and find for the roll. I may never understand why the toilet paper exits the holder after my child exits the bathroom. Why it must live on the floor or on the counter or on the side of the tub or behind the toilet
  • I am looking forward to entering our shared cars knowing that there will be enough gas to get me to the end of the driveway
  • I am looking forward to, perhaps, finding the spare keys to those same shared cars. I mean, yes, I get it, ‘no one’ used them, yet somehow they have gone missing.
  • I am looking forward to not taking dinner attendance each day, only to be met with sporadic claims of being over-controlling. No, it’s not that I really care WHERE my adult child will be if not at our dining table, it is that I want to know how many plates to set out and how many chicken breasts to prepare. I often wonder if this child’s elementary school teachers were given the same accusatory responses when the lunch count was taken each morning. ‘No, dear, I don’t actually care if you will be having the fish sticks or sneaking out to the jungle gym, but our cafeteria staff would like a headcount, please and thank you…’
  • I am looking forward to approaching the washer with the confidence of a woman who will find it empty. No more surprises of a funky pile of wet clothes, long forgotten by their owner after a failed run at a completed laundry mission.
  • I am looking forward to grabbing the coffee creamer and finding coffee creamer in the container . Same with ketchup. Hot Sauce. Brown Sugar. Really. Somedays I wonder if kids today think there will be a punishment for not only throwing out an emptied item but additional consequences for adding ‘mustard’ (et al) to the magic portal. You know the one, where family members write a word on paper or whiteboard and then, suddenly, days later, the item appears back in the pantry?
  • I am looking forward to sending our robot vacuum on his bi-weekly journey without having to sprint up the stairs to rescue it from chewing up trash or clothes or earbuds or pens that seem to always remain stored on the bedroom floors of teenagers. Wait, perhaps the robot vacuum ate the spare keys.
  • I am looking forward to opening the clean dishwasher and not finding dirty plates piled on top of the clean No, the little magnets do not help.
  • I am looking forward to leveling back up to being one of the smarter people in the house, rather than this outdated one that has so little knowledge of the outside world.

I really am going to miss this baby adult. She has recently thrown in a slightly clingy twist which has been quite lovely and will, no doubt, make move-out even harder for me. I am trying not to wish these sweet chats could have been our norm for years and be grateful for the now.

Still, as we approach departure day, I am also realizing that there are several oft-repeated phrases that will be retired, and I feel no shame in the glory of glee that comes from that. You shouldn’t either. There is nothing wrong with running parallel tracks of emotion when launching a bird from the nest.

I mean, clearly, keep that list of ‘things I’m looking forward to’ to yourself for a few years…at least until that child has their own teenager driving them bananas.

And even then, maybe just listen, smile, and nod, knowingly.

Jyl Barlow is an American writer whose humor is often lost on, well, Americans, but most of all her mother-in-law. Jyl is married with two (step)children and recently began a journey as a beekeeper as that seemed easier than raising teenagers. Jyl’s first book will be out in 2023. Follow her stories on whichwaysup.blog or community.today.com/user/jyl-barlow.