Saturday, August 23, 2008

Empty Nest for Real

Almost three years ago, I wrote a parenting column about an early glimpse of what an empty nest might be like, after both our boys had begun their college careers. This weekend, we get to see what the real thing feels like. This past week, we moved one son into the dorms at Kent State and the other into St. Louis University for his freshman year. SLU is an amazing school with a striking campus. Its gleaming facilities, bustling setting (in the city) and overall school spirit and energy put its sister Jesuit school John Carroll to shame. On the way back, we listened to Jeffrey Toobin's book about the Supreme Court, The Nine. You can see him in person on September 26th at the City Club.

10 Comments:

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a perfect excuse to travel...around the world. ;-)

Neve Black

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Sure... No need to pay those tuition bills. Just blow it all on travel.

 
At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

You're a few years ahead of me, John. I have one entering high school tomorrow, which is strange enough in itself. I'm sure those four years will fly by. In the meantime, we also have one in middle school, two others in elementary school, and a 2 1/2-year-old who THINKS he's old enough to go to school. By the time we get to him, this whole high school and college thing is going to be old hat...

 
At 3:36 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Wow, Scott, you've really spread the kids out nicely. A dozen years between the oldest and youngest kids is somewhat unusual these days (or maybe not; you'd probably know that better than I). I suppose I'm tied to the old Catholic tradition of pumping them out back to back (my parents had kids three years in a row, with a six-year pause for the fourth and last, and my boys are 16 months apart). That way, I figure, you get all your penance out of the way together. But our house is eerily quiet now, that's for sure. And MAN, do I miss those two guys.

 
At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

I don't know if the spacing is unusual or not, but I do know that having five isn't all that common anymore (even out here in heavily Catholic Wickliffe!) For what it's worth, we had the first four in just over six years, so maybe that counts as "pumping them out." No. 5 was the bonus baby...

 
At 3:06 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Yes, Scott, we checked with the panel of volunteer Working With Words judges, who are just back from judging the gymnastics contests at the Olympics, and they officially concur that 4 in 6 qualifies as pumping 'em out. And you're sure right about how five kids in a family now qualifies as a large family, when everyone seemed to have at least four or five not so long ago. My wife is one of nine. I do have a friend from John Carroll who's not even quite my age who has 13 kids, but he's obviously the exception, and his family's considerable wealth from a family-owned company erases the biggest hurdle that ordinarily prevents people from having so many kids these days: being able to afford it.

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

And by the way, on this, the fourth official day of the empty nest, I miss those boys (okay, young men) at least twice as much as I did on the first day. I'm hoping that rate slows down a little.

 
At 11:45 PM, Blogger Maria said...

John,
The culmination of the great job of parenting is being willing to let them go! I began having empty nest pangs when my son was 10mths. old. (A colleague thought I was kidding.) No, I discovered that there were many steps along the way when I had to renegotiate my role. As my son had quite a few health issues in the early years, parenting affected how I configured my teaching/writing life also...but the bottom line was that I needed/wanted to be available emotionally and physically.

In first grade he looked at me with a little smile and said: "There's someone I don't miss at all during the whole day at school!"

Fast forward a decade. I'm still needed and maybe sometimes missed but it's much more about silent support, troubleshooting, letting him find his own way.

 
At 12:07 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for that insight from a fellow parent, Maria. I know I'm supposed to feel that way about letting them go. I'm just not there yet. Sure hope I can get there eventually. And of course, everywhere you look, you can see father-son moments that make you think about it even more. The latest was tonight, watching Joe Biden's son introduce his dad at the convention with emotionally laden stories about their close bond. It gave me several lumps in the throat.

 
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