People keep asking me what it’s been like with my kids out of the house. To be honest, so far, I haven’t really noticed they’ve been gone.
For those who may not know, we recently sent our son, Billy, off to his freshman year of college, and our daughter, Grace, to Austria for a year-long youth exchange.
So, in a very short time, we’ve gone from two kids at home to an empty nest.
But as I said, it doesn’t really feel that way yet. Let’s just say that the kids’ presence is lingering.
For example, two weekends ago, I spent a couple of hours scrubbing down the bathroom that the kids have been “cleaning” themselves for the past year. Apparently, the definition of clean is relative. There were six shampoo, conditioner or body wash bottles in the shower — but only one with anything in it. I guess that’s a way to keep plastic out of the landfill.
I also felt bad about displacing the spiders from behind the toilet. It looked like they had been there for a while. But as long as we’re cleaning up after them, it certainly doesn’t feel like the kids are gone.
One thing we have noticed is that we seem to have way more bowls, mugs and spoons than we thought we did. I’m not sure where they all came from, but all of the sudden, we barely have enough room in the cupboards for them.
Coincidentally, we haven’t bought a box of cereal since July. And we’ve determined that a single-serve milk bottle will last us a week. In fact, half of our family is gone, but we’re spending less than a third of what we used to spend on groceries. Of course, tuition payments and costs for Grace’s travels make up for the difference.
Speaking of dishes, in the month that the kids have been gone, we’ve run the dishwasher twice — and one of those times, it was because it was starting to smell just a little. As it turns out, if you have to clean the dishes enough so there’s no food left on them because they’re going to sit in the dishwasher for a week, you might as well just wash them all the way and squeeze them back in the cabinet.
Maybe that will be the trick to getting all the bowls to fit — we just need to think of the dishwasher as extra storage space.
It is different without the kids at home. Slowly but surely, we’ve been cleaning up the piles of junk they left on their way out the door. Last weekend, we tackled my son’s room; we may still be tackling it next weekend, too.
We’re also getting the hang of cooking for two. In our case, I think two will refer to two meals, rather than two people — so far, most of what we have prepared has been more than enough for at least one meal of leftovers.
I do still find myself waiting up for the kids to get home — or at least waiting for the text that they’re on their way home 15 minutes past curfew. And I have to admit, I got a little bit misty on my daughter’s last night home as I was checking the “find my iPhone” app one last time to see where she was texting from.
The kids seem to be doing well. Grace is trying to keep everyone posted with occasional blog and Instagram posts (forcing my wife and me to join Instagram). If we pester Billy with enough texts, he’ll eventually respond that everything is “fine,” which is as much as we ever get out of him when he’s home anyway.
At some point, kids’ rooms will be cleaned, the totes full of their elementary school artwork will be sorted, and we’ll have broken a few dishes trying to cram them into the cupboard, addressing the need for extra storage.
Maybe then, it will really feel like the kids are gone.
Then again, Billy will be home on school breaks, and Grace will be back from her exchange next summer.
Maybe I should start stocking up on bowls now.
Will Morrow lives in Kenai. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• By WILL MORROW, For the Peninsula Clarion