Mileposts in the Distance – The “what next” factor

by Stacey on July 5, 2012

Note from Stacey: Every Thursday we’re thrilled to offer Laura’s Mileposts in the Distance column. You can read more about Laura below.

The Lovely Daughter left for her summer internship on Sunday.  She’ll spend the next seven weeks in Dublin, navigating a whole new city and mass commutation while dodging raindrops.   Upon her return in August, she’ll head directly back to school for senior year and the adventures beyond.

MDR and I will visit her in Ireland, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m keenly jealous that she’s wearing sweaters and worried that somehow we will bring southern heat with us when we go in August.

So we’re back to an empty nest.  And this go round, it’s nearly for good.   Six weeks at home with her parents clarified the Lovely Daughter’s personal standards about sharing living space and I’m afraid we are not her first choice of roommates.  This may be tied into our recent daily conversations about where the driveway will be for the new build next door.  Lovely Daughter nearly shrieked the last time we brought it up, so it’s a touchy subject.

For the record, we believe it will be on the side of the house away from us.   And all my updates to her over the rest of the summer will include the driveway status because I’m that kind of Mom.

At the same time, Handsome Son and his Jolie Blonde are dealing with the grown up problems of living in a city where power was decimated by heat and storms last weekend.  They’ve had to replace perishables twice so far this summer and are learning how to get through days without power by accepting the hospitality of friends.  Air mattresses never came in so handy.

So the chicks are all accounted for outside the nest.  It’s inside the nest that’s more of a question.

It’s one thing to know that college signals the end of your day-to-day ties to your children.  It’s another thing to know that unless circumstances dictate otherwise, you are nearing the point when your children are visitors to your home not full-time residents.   For some reason, this has been the far harder hurdle for me.

As a couple, MDR and I have energy and enthusiasm about the things that interest us.  When the chicks are in the nest, that energy and enthusiasm expands beyond measure as we absorb what excite our kids.  And when they leave, it’s very, very quiet.  At least until we start talking about the construction next door.

MDR and I have started playing the “what next?” game about where we eventually want to live.  We are beyond the point of having to consider excellent public schools and town programs catering to families with children.  But we are still going to factor in where our children live and how easily we/they can visit.

We hope the beach house will be central to family gatherings as the years go by, but from our own cross-country experience we know that most times it’s more luck than will that puts you near your children when they head out on their own.  So while they start filling in the blanks of their lives, we’ve started doing the same.

It’s interesting to compare what you want in a city or a home 25-plus years into a marriage to what you needed when you started out as a couple.  From experience, it’s a discussion best had on a porch in a summer evening with a couple of cold beers rather than in a long car trip when you can’t really take a moment fetch another beer.   The conversation traditionally start with “So where do you want to live?” Emphasis on you.  Since it’s early in the process, I think it’s good that we each speak up about our personal vision of our next home because our visions and tastes have rarely been poles apart.

Without any personal deadline, the conversations become verbal vision boards that we can shape to our hearts’ content until it’s time to see the vision manifest.

So what do we want?  So far, it’s to live in a neighborhood that’s a mixture of families from old to young.  As I said before kids lend energy to your life and (despite Handsome Son’s protests) I tend to like them.  We would prefer not to have to drive everywhere, so there cities are on the list.  We’d like to be fairly close to an airport that serves as a hub in case the children live out of driving distance.  We would love to be able to see our extended family on an easy basis.  We’re not sure how we feel about long winters, but fairly sure that going any further south wouldn’t suit us.

That’s just the outline though.  We’ll take our time filling in the blanks by researching and visiting places that seem like possibilities.   And when the time comes to make the next move, I know we will have created a new energy between us, one that welcomes the kids when they visit and loves it when they leave.

Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.

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