Most of the friends who came for brunch Saturday morning were friends through K’s graduate school. K stayed in graduate school for a while, and the first batch of friends he made there are all much older than us, and all their children are older than ours — closer to 30 now than 20, probably. But this particular batch are all closer in age to us, and their children are all younger than ours, most just about to enter into high school. As both of our kids were away (M came home later that night), we spent a lot of time detailing what they are up to, and it seemed very exotic to our friends that N is actually about to graduate from college.
Everyone else was concerned about picking the right high school, or getting through the high school they’re picked, and the parents are starting to look a little haggard. I think they are more exhausted by parenting than they realize. A few of them asked about the empty nest, which I have to say is a lot nicer than I would have expected. And about high school, well, I could have given them advice but I think it’s maybe better to let people figure that out for themselves. Maybe that’s what high school is all about, for parents and kids. And I do not want to be like Mrs G who, upon learning that N is considering is the Peace Corps, explained to me exactly why it is that N will never be chosen. Most of the reasons she gave are actually reasons I think N might be considered (N is a pretty well-traveled, flexible, independent sort of person), but it is also true that N may not be accepted. In fact N may decide she doesn’t want to go. But in any case I’d really rather figure this out on my own, or rather, let N figure it out. That may be the nicest thing about kids who are getting older — they are well along the way to becoming who they are, and all we can really do at this point is to offer encouragement and occasional financial assistance, but that hard work, knock on wood, is done, and I am kind of past the point of worrying about what Mrs G thinks. (Not past the point of being annoyed by it, as you can see.)
On the other hand, our most recent house guest’s mother explained to me very seriously how wonderful it is to be a grandparent. I’m sure it is, and I’m sure I will be happy to be one, and already I am detecting my heightening interest in small children, but I think that may be because my own children are now so very far from being small. I am certainly not expecting grandchildren any time soon.
Maybe the nicest thing about the empty nest is that when your children do come back, they are much more grown up than they used to be, and are a lot of fun to hang out with. It gets to be hard to be the boss of a nearly-grown child. It’s more fun to enjoy them without actually being the boss of them, not that you don’t still have a worrying amount of influence. I’m actually eager to see what they’re going to do next, and pretty confident that it will be something interesting and appropriate.
So there, Mrs G.