Chattanooga Now Courter: Are empty nests ever really empty?

Chattanooga Now Courter: Are empty nests ever really empty?

August 17th, 2012 by Barry Courter in Chattnow Outabout

Sometime tonight, we will begin loading up the vehicles with my daughter's stuff in preparation for her move tomorrow to Knoxville and the University of Tennessee.

We've been readying ourselves for this move for months now. Emotionally, financially, physically, you name it. It has been a very taxing process. Everyone in the family was pulled in several directions over the last year or so. There are so many major decisions to be made, and you seesaw between thinking this is the most important decision of her life and telling yourself that she can always go a different route if this doesn't work out. Kids do it all the time, so what's the big deal, right?

On the one hand, you want your child to stay close so you can visit, help if needed, protect, hug her neck and do all of the things you've done every day for the last 18 years.

On the other hand, the whole idea is for your child to become whatever it is she should become, and we really want her to challenge herself and grow.

Another train of thought is that her going away would mean my wife and I will have the whole house to ourselves and we can do whatever we want. It's a nice thought, and it might work for some, but what I want to do is watch my kids play ball. Always have, but that's being selfish.

I've joked that my plan is to do what Woody Allen said his parents did the day he was kidnapped and put a Room For Rent sign out front.

My daughter counters that idea with a suggestion that we should put up yellow police tape and keep her bedroom the way she left it for her triumphant return. I have a friend who actually turned his daughter's bedroom into a tanning/workout room. That went over like a lead zeppelin with the daughter, but he made his point.

We raise children so they will grow into mature adults capable of moving out and taking care of themselves. I used to believe that meant that once they leave the house, they are gone, returning home for summer break after freshman year and then holidays and the occasional Sunday meal after graduation.

Bill Cosby once said, "Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that allow their children to come back home."

Our oldest moved back in after graduation. While it is counter to what I always said I wanted, it makes so much sense, and it's been great having him. He has a great job and contributes to the household, and he is building a nice nest egg for himself and giving himself a tremendous head start. I'm pretty sure my wife and I are still paying for the first Christmas we spent together almost 30 years ago.

I had a former coach tell me we as parents really don't know what kind of job we've done until our kids start raising their own kids. I think that foundation is established well before they leave for college, however.

I will miss Grace something terrible, but I'm more excited to watch what she does with her life over the next four years and beyond.

And with Facebook, Facetime, text messaging and who knows what will come next, I can pretty much keep up with her every move.

I'm just kidding, Grace. Now, your mother on the other hand ...