Preparing for my empty-nest years

It’s almost back to school time! RickJacobs

This year, for me anyway, is a bitter-sweet time. It’s my last year. My youngest, Scotty, will be a senior at CBHS.

Therefore, I have registered him for the last time. I will pay for his books for the last time. I will periodically check his grades online for the last time. This will be the last year for teacher’s meetings. Once this year is over, his mom and I can sit back and relax.
And reflect.

Not long ago I realized, with four children, that I have been raising and providing for offspring for more than 30 years. My daughter was born in 1983, my sons in 1985, 1990 and 1995.

That’s a lot of lunch money. And book reports. And signed papers. And practices. And ball games. And clothes. And medical bills. And worry. And frustration.

But also love and, for the most part, pride. It usually all balances out.

And, happily, we parents are paid back and then some when they give us grandchildren.

All along, I’ve had one goal for all of my kids and, should this year go as planned, I’ve achieved it. My job was to get each one of them to their senior prom, in one piece and with as few scars as possible. Emotional and physical. After that, I told them, they’re on their own.

I don’t pay for college. I paid for mine and paid back every penny of my student loans. They can do the same. Also, there are so many grants and scholarships out there that I didn’t have access to that they should be able to attend college virtually free.

Well, maybe not Yale or Princeton, but certainly the University of Memphis. Like the lottery or not, it does provide bucks to our kids for college.

Don’t get me wrong — I love my kids and I want what’s best for them. But, after more than 30 years, I am ready to spend money on Susie and me for a change.

I will soon enter my sixth decade of life. That’s way more than halfway through my life’s journey. Susie has been by my side for the last nearly 33 years of it. And, next May, when Scotty’s name is called and he receives his diploma, you won’t hear us yell and scream, but you will hear this huge, collective sigh of relief.

We did it. And though no one will hand us a diploma, I feel we will also graduate that day. We will receive a degree of successful parenting, more than 30 years in the making. And though we, and our kids, made mistakes here and there, for the most part we are able to say to each other, "Well done!"

My oldest son, Ricky, is a United States Marine stationed in Japan. He and his wife have blessed us with three grandchildren.

My middle son, Sean, is Special Forces Air Force. He and his wife are about to give us a grandchild.
Scotty has plans, serious plans, to get his degree from the University of Memphis. His goal is to one day proudly wear the uniform of SWAT and fight crime.

And my daughter, Lisa, is taking classes and hopes to be a nurse soon. She recently gave us the most beautiful granddaughter.

I’ve been told by some that the day you find yourself with an empty nest is a sad day. That may be. But I won’t cry long. This is how life works. The time spent with diapers, bottles, car seats, toys, tricycles, bikes, scooters, etc, is brief. You tolerate mood swings, puberty, arguments and the looks of contempt as all part of growing up.

Especially those looks. You know. Parents are dumb. We don’t know anything about anything. We don’t understand. And then they have kids of their own. Then they ask us dumb parents for advice.
Suddenly we’re not quite so dumb. Full circle.

I already know what I’m getting Scotty for graduation. Luggage. Packed and ready to go. Then I’m changing the locks and garage code. And my phone numbers.

Well, maybe not.

But his graduation will mark the end of a long adventure. Susie and I were so young when we discovered she was pregnant with our first. We had no idea then there would be three other times we’d make the same happy discovery.

We plan to make the next 30 years an adventure of more discoveries. There will be no slowing down. The difference being there will be more of a focus on us. A graduation gift of sorts. A reward for more than 30 years doing the hardest job you’ll ever love.

Let’s chill the champagne sweetie. It’s almost time to celebrate.