Tomorrow it will be two weeks since I dropped off the last of our three children at college. Phew. I did it! It’s a good feeling.
When I mention that I have three children in college, people are impressed. I can only compare it to the year when I had three children under three years old — all in diapers. Then, it was: “How do you do it? I mean, all the sleepless nights?!?” Now, it’s it: “How do you do it? Financially? Who can afford it?”
Well, the financial part is a source of pride. Almost my entire adult life I have squirreled away every bonus and every tax refund for my kids’ 529 accounts — the savings account earmarked for kids’ college. So they do receive scholarships but we have also saved some money.
My goal is to have the kids graduate without any debt. Not that it killed me, but I had students loans until I was about 35. And that $121 a month to Sallie Mae all those years definitely felt like I was paying alimony for a marriage I didn’t enjoy consummating.
In any case, the “how do you do it?” question is more profound for me on an emotional level. My darlings, as I refer to my children — inspired by the Darling children in Peter Pan books, have been in the front and center of my mind and heart for 21 years. Just about every decision I have made these last two decades, I have wondered: How does this impact the kids? And now, suddenly, I can let my mind be free from some decisions.
So here’s an example: Chris and I are shopping in Trader Joe’s the other day and we are in the frozen pizza department. I reach for the Pizza Margherita — not that anyone really LOVES that kind of pizza, but it satisfies the vegetarians among my darlings. It is the least common denominator. It’s fine.
“Hey, we can get that fancy French one!” I realize. We can get that one with the bits of ham and caramelized onions. So good (if you’re not a vegetarian). Chris especially enjoys that our clean up after dinner is done in half the time.
Another new discovery: we can make our own television selections. We have one television. And I often had to share my time with XBOX times. Now, Rachel Maddow and MSNBC can hold court. There’s no one waiting to use the television.
But our home is quieter. It’s lonelier. It’s less dynamic. There’s no coming and going. Yes, it’s tidier, but it’s got less soul. I guess we’ll get used to it. And we won’t be alone for long. School breaks and summers will fill the nest again. Pizza Margherita will be back on the menu.
One more thing: the reality is that when you live in New York City, many people love to visit. And we love to host family and friends. I’m not turning my place over to itinerant couch-surfers or AirBnB guests (likely, illegal in NYC), but I’m open to the next chapter. And I’m proud of my darlings, heading off to college.
I’m not alone. So many of my friends are in the same position. And one thing I know for sure: although they are not nearby, they are loved and they know they are loved. And home is really where the heart is — not only where the XBox is played.