Empty nest will be here sooner than you think

Parent Connection

July 28, 2010 

For parents, making the most of college years is essential to combat empty nest syndrome

As I type away on my faithful laptop companion, I find myself home alone. It's not just being alone on this particular evening that has me reflecting and feeling, well, a bit sentimental.

I just finished bringing down boxes from the attic to load up tomorrow. These boxes will accompany my toolbox, a few old blankets and more than a U-Haul full of memories over the past several years. You see, tomorrow my wife and I help pack up our younger daughter, Ashley, who graduates from college in just a few days.

Where did the time go? Yes, the inquiry does sound cliche, but oh so pertinent to my soul tonight. Up in the attic, I thought back to when I was getting ready to move our older daughter, Becca, into her freshman dorm. I guess you can say I was a rookie college dad then, and I smile to myself as I began to scavenge around for a few boxes.

The first college move or two? Boy, was everything in its place. I remembered how I packed that first desktop so carefully -- all the cords together and components wrapped up in the original plastic.

Tomorrow? Well, the boxes for Ashley are praying they bypass the recycling bin on campus. Worn, to say the least.

I head out to my storage room and there on top of my toolbox is a small piece of masking tape with "106" written in red pen. I left it there from the day we moved Ashley into her freshman dorm. Helpers that day had stuck her room number on each box and bag -- ensuring that nothing was taken to the wrong dorm room.

I left that tape in place because I knew that one day I was going to look at that little red 106 and realize how quickly four years can pass, and how Julia and I have reached the end of an era. We have always enjoyed being parents -- and always will. But these college years I will treasure in my memory the most.

Why? The college years, for me, have been the most rewarding. Instead of trying to hover over our daughters and fight the empty nest, Julia and I simply enjoyed this stage of life.

Maybe it was traveling to college ballgames, taking our girls and their friends out to eat, the late night phone calls or truly catching up on holidays and breaks. Though college years bring the first significant time for parents and their offspring to be apart, you can sure grow closer together.

Do you have younger kids and college or the empty nest seems light years away? It'll be here sooner than you think, and you may find yourself gathering boxes before you know it.

What I want you to remember is this. To be pals with your young adult children, you can't always be their pal right now. You need to be mom and dad, and have no problem with observing, supervising and putting your foot down when needed.

Bryan Greeson, a nationally certified school psychologist, serves as the Director of Special Services in York School District One. E-Mail him at parentconnection@hotmail.com.

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