Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Chick Lit Cheerleader: A slightly empty nest

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Long before she became our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker was (and still is) a mom. Her love for and devotion to her kids is prevalent in her book, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out. (Some parts even made me cry.) I only wish I could be as awesome of a mom as she is (despite what my kids think) and envy her kids for having her as theirs. So, what's a mom to do when one of her kids has left the nest? Write a column about  it, of course! 

We'll leave you in Jen's capable hands now. (And maybe she'll make you some chocolate chip cookies too.)

When They Fly

Kicked off Nikes at the bottom of the stairs waiting to trip an unlucky soul. Empty cans of Coca-Cola on end tables, nightstands, next to the TV, piled in the name the locale. Lacrosse gear plopped atop the coffee table longer than it takes me to binge House of Cards. Textbooks and mounds of graded assignments littering the dining room table 24/7. Towels on the bathroom floor that reek of Axe body wash and man-smells. I no longer find these things around the house since Ryan left for his freshman year of college, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I kid you not. I do not miss those eye-roll worthy things one single bit.

At Ryan's high school graduation

The dining room table is clean—hallelujah! I haven’t bought a case of Coke in a month, friends. And I have yet to find a bath towel ready to be condemned. These are the joys of having one less freeloader in the house. I haven’t tripped over stray lacrosse balls since August! I also have more cash in my pocket. It seemed to disappear rapidly with requests for Taco Bell runs. You too will join me in this heavenly realm one day. Be steadfast, my people.

Now that all the celebratory stuff is out of the way, the little victories of reclaiming my space, let me tell you what I miss. There’s one less “Good morning, Mom!” with an accompanying hug to start my day. During breakfast, I no longer see Ryan devour a Kind Bar and bowl of Rice Chex, while watching YouTube videos of people playing video games (I still don’t get that one. Why watch people playing games you aren’t playing? Weird.) No more jingling keys before he heads out the door. “Mom! Hey, I’m home!” are words I never hear weekdays at 2:54 PM. No requests for homemade lasagna, accompanied by puppy dog eyes, and the tried and true signature phrase of getting me to do whatever my spawn wants. “You’re the best mom ever!” To those words, I am putty. Ryan wasn’t by my side during the most recent Game of Thrones run. He’s the one who held my hand when I was freaking out over white walkers, Lannister shenanigans, and baby dragons. My husband only understands my need to jump, shriek, and yell at the television to a certain degree.

Ryan playing lacrosse for his high school

Here’s what I miss most. It chokes me up every time I think about it. I miss our bedtime routine. Don’t think for a minute eighteen-year-old guys don’t have one. We no longer read bedtime stories and tucked Ryan in. My teenaged-son’s nightly ritual consisted of him piling on top of me, tickling my face with his lackluster patchy whiskers, and making the inanest noises for no reason other than he could. After I was the victim of a sparse facial hair attack for a fair amount of time, Mike would say, “Ryan, why are you so annoying?” or something like that. Ryan’s immediate cue to shift his focus and pummel Dad. Mike still has some sweet wrestling moves in his repertoire from high school. Watching them tussle only made me laugh harder. And they knew it.

Here’s what I’ve gained. A son I no longer parent daily but rather a man I give guidance and advice to. Can you believe he listens and asks for it? My voice no longer sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher to him. Ryan calls and texts because he wants to, not because he must. When he returns home, it’s magic. He eats leftovers, loads the dishwasher, and takes the dogs out without a request. The sibling rivalry has turned into nothing but love, laughter, and precious moments when the three are reunited. You see, friends who’ve walked this path before me said these things would happen eventually. Maybe when Ryan got married, or had his first child. How fortunate are we that it happened after we hugged him goodbye outside his dorm room.

It’s hard to watch them fly, friends. The ones we rock to sleep. Who run to us to kiss their boo-boos. That wrap their tiny arms around our necks and squeeze with all their might. We add an additional birthday candle to their cakes each year watching time pass. Here’s the thing—it’s what’s supposed to happen. That doesn’t mean everyone should high-five and pop the champagne when they move out. It doesn’t dictate you won’t have your heart shatter as the door to their dorm closes behind you and they’re on their own for the first time. We all react to change, and growth, differently.

Move in day (his sister misses him already)
Ryan’s new digs means he won’t be home keeping me sane during The Walking Dead this season. Ryan gets me during intense TV time—always. It’s nail-biting scary for me when zombies sneak their way into Alexandria, the Hilltop, or the Kingdom. Yes, I know it’s television, I really do. Actors with crazy-stellar makeup and wardrobe. Yet to me, to Ryan, it’s one of the ties that binds us. And even though we won’t be watching together, I can’t wait for our Monday morning recaps as he walks to class. It’s OK if you don’t get the whole “zombie” thing. I don’t get pumpkin spice lattes. And neither does Ryan.

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.


Janine said...

It's hard for me to relate to this as I don't have children. But reading your post, I can totally understand the emotions you go through when one of your kids leaves home. I hope he will come back and stay with you for holidays and school breaks.

Kristi said...

Oh, I love this! There are things that I love and things that I miss about every age that my child was. I wonder if that still happens even as she gets further into adulthood?

The Book Sage said...

First of all, and even though I haven't seen you with your kids, I doubt that Jen has anything on you re motherhood! Secondly, I remember very well when we dropped our our oldest at the University of Arizona in Tucson for the start of his freshman year. The 4 of us went back to the airport. And when the ticket taker asked us how many, my wife said 5. Then she realized it was only 4 and burst out crying. You're obviously happy and sad at the same time.

dstoutholcomb said...

I just sent son #2 to college, son #1 is a senior in college/NCAA LAX player, and son #3 is the last one at home. Hugs.