The next chapter: empty-nester

My wife and I will be delivering our daughter to Fayetteville State University on Saturday, where she will begin her college career — both academically as a marketing/art education major with a minor in graphic design (holy mouthful!), and athletically as a member of the Lady Broncos highly successful bowling program.

After 18 years, four months and 10 days of living at home, this next level of semi-adulthood will give her the opportunity to make many of her own decisions — decisions, that, along the way, will make her realize she gets to be responsible for the outcomes. Good or bad. Fun or frustrating. Positive or costly.

We’ve been told over the last several months that, the moment we become “empty nesters,” our own world will open to bigger, better, brighter things.

Which, in reality, is just a bunch of hooey.

Let’s start with six key words — “make many of her own decisions.” My wife and I have witnessed her recent decisions and even inquired exactly how those decisions came about. To her credit, Cheyenne hasn’t ever fallen back on the typical “I don’t know” response. Instead, she is much more to the point … she simply shrugs her shoulders.

So we fully understand that many decisions won’t be made with “what should I do” or, heaven forbid, “what would my parents expect me to do” thinking. Those decisions will often get made with the question “what do I want to do?”

Knowing this, as soon as we drive away from FSU on Saturday, we will forever be in a constant state of wondering what she’s doing with her money, who is she meeting, did she brush her teeth, will she go to every class, is she getting enough sleep, what is she eating and is she being respectful? All of that is going to be somewhat new for us, because those things were monitored more easily over the years in person.

But there is definitely a much, much bigger issue brewing here that takes all the joy and celebration of being an “empty nester” out of our daily lives.

In a word … chores.

Veterans of the “empty nest,” you know exactly what I’m talking about. These are the chores your little Johnny or sweet little Betsy have been doing — except they aren’t so little anymore.

And now that they are moving on into the real world of college and … whatever, they are leaving behind such important jobs as emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, cleaning litter boxes and anything else that crosses a parent’s mind as they sit on the couch watching a drama-packed episode of “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Or, in my case, sports.

Now that I have started to realize just what Saturday will bring, the only “opening of our world” will be that my wife and I will have to figure out how to once again fend for ourselves. It’ll be like we are 20-somethings again … but with a lot less adult beverages. Perhaps.

So the plan Saturday is to get an early start with preparing a final breakfast for Cheyenne, get the car packed and head for FSU by about 10 a.m. — where we will find her dorm and get everything piled into her new digs. Probably after a quick lunch, we will bid our farewells, good lucks and offer our expectations for the semester one more time (bowl well, study hard and save money).

Then it’s back home, where we will revel in our alone-ness. At least until dinner time, when one of us will have to clean up.

There must be a new drug of some kind for this Empty Nest Syndrome — except that, like most, it probably has side effects like depression, suicidal thoughts, nausea, dehydration, brittle bones, allergies to life and possible death.

All of this is Cheyenne’s doing.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]

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