It’s a New Year and I’m embarking on a new phase of my life as an empty nester that has moved to a different state and completely different environment. All the stresses of a big move (21,000 pounds AFTER paring down our stuff considerably) were present and then some. Yes, it was a move of choice but that doesn’t diminish the degree such a change is impactful nor the fact that some things turned out to be easier than others.
Top of the list of things that turned out to be easier were the adjustment to the move – meaning how easy it was not to look back and miss the home I’d had for 61+ years. And, second was how adaptable I felt with both boys gone from the family home. Granted, we have two “girls” to replace them (see below).
After a few months and after many interactions with my boys via text, cell, and some visits, I began to ask, “WHO are these boys (that I raised)?”
Both had grown and changed in ways I found stunning and, at times, unrecognizable. While I believe that how our kids turn out is less determined by biology than nurture, I did question their paternity. Yes, only in jest, but I looked at them as sort of alien creatures.
My boys have been as different from each other as I could ever have imagined, not only in looks, but interests, temperament, and mood. Think Fred and Ginger singing, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and you have these boys. And, to a degree, the same could be said for my wife and I. However, we do share very similar interests and largely the same value system. Thankfully, our politics are pretty much aligned as well, since that has become a significant growing issue in my life.
These boys? WHO ARE THEY?
On the very positive and grateful side, I’ve seen both grow in independence. Both are beginning to understand the value of a buck, albeit in baby steps it seems (at times). Both are trying to figure out – essentially without any guidance from us – what their initial career paths will be.
Granted, the notion of “career path” has significantly changed for their generation in that a single career is largely a thing of the past unless you choose a profession or trade such as doctor or plumber.
So many of this generation feel entitled and so many are spoiled, yet their generation actually needs an entrepreneurial spirit in direct contrast to the way they’ve been raised and their perception of the world (just think of any/all college campuses and the things they protest and care about). To succeed today they don’t need a hand-out, they need to lift themselves up! The fact that the majority of college students do NOT believe in free speech is a singular example of how much has changed.
My boys don’t discuss their political views much with me and one of them still gets thoroughly embarrassed anytime I even bring up a topic – in a group setting – that is remotely political. Then again, that is one thing that has stayed constant, this boy is still mostly embarrassed by most of what I do.
However, this same boy has expressed pride and respect for things I’ve accomplished in my life that I had never heard expressed by him before. Who are these boys?
The changes in my boys’ attitudes, goals, and perspectives on life will alter rapidly given their ages (19 and 22). But, one of the things I sense is a lack of desire to “settle down” in anything that would resemble a traditional family with a spouse and children.
I am an older parent and, right now, I can’t even imagine ever seeing grandchildren. Yes, yes, don’t tell me that things will change. I know that. But, that is how I feel at this moment.
Another cliché that hasn’t proven to be true is that my wife and I have had little trouble adjusting to being alone together. We still pursue independent activities, have separate friends, and bicker constantly. At least my wife doesn’t have to complain about all three of us making a mess in the house – it’s just me now!
Our new environment, however, has produced more new friends in a short period of months than the previous seven years of marriage provided. That was a very pleasant surprise.
But, WHO are these boys? What did I do right? Well, truth be told (at least according to my wife), all the good traits they possess came from her teaching (them). And, she’s probably correct.
Who are these boys? They are independent, evolving, and terrific adults. Their paths are unknown, but it’s quite the journey to watch and appreciate. And, at this point, my job is simply to “watch and appreciate.”