With grown children home, sometimes knowing less can be best
By Shelley Murphy
Instead of resolving to make unrealistic resolutions for the New Year, which would take me longer to list than actually uphold, I passed on the annual ritual and instead took time to reflect on the past and present.
I realized as the New Year dawned, my younger son starts his senior year of high school and the slippery slope toward college submissions in 2014. The thought of two in college—and an empty nest—sent me sprinting for the champagne.
Last month, my older son came home for the holidays, as did many San Clemente High School graduates. Like last year, most his friends arrived in town by mid-December, but unlike last year they arrived as confident young adults, not floundering college freshman.
A year ago when they returned home, they’d been tucked into dorm rooms for a few months with university housing rules regulating their freedom—they even had meal plans restricting what and when they could eat.
This year, as sophomores, most his friends are entering their 20s and living in apartments or fraternity and sorority houses with infinite independence and blurred boundaries.
Last December, they arrived home just starting to spread their wings. This year, they landed shouldering wingspans of bald eagles.
They morphed from the somewhat sheltered high school graduates sent-off to test dorm life and taste independence into young adults on paths to professional careers and engaged in lasting loves, accustomed to celebrating well-earned achievements and surviving heart-wrenching disappointments.
On one of my son’s first nights home we enjoyed a traditional family dinner. Around 9 p.m. I curled-up on the couch with a book in hand completely content and counting my blessings with both my birds back in their nest, safely nestled upstairs.
Moments later my bubble burst when my older son came bounding down the stairs with keys in hand announcing he was off to visit friends.
I wasn’t surprised and asked him to be home by midnight—he looked at me as if I’d told him our cable provider cancelled ESPN.
He kissed me on the forehead and said, “Don’t wait up, mom.” As he left, I shouted to be safe and he yelled back over his shoulder these comforting words: “Don’t worry, I do this all the time now.”
I realize in his second year of college my son probably spends significantly more time socializing and sleeping and far less time reading and writing than he said he did as a freshman.
The college experience includes lessons learned both inside and outside lecture halls. This sophomore year my son immersed himself in numerous campus activities, embraced his school spirit and forged friendships with his fraternity brothers.
As a college kid he goes to parties. And since I vaguely remember that phase of my five-year college career, while my son continues his initiation into various collegiate rites of passage, I’ll maintain my not so grown-up belief that ignorance truly is bliss.
I remember crying to a girlfriend when my son left for college as I wrestled with letting go. She promised it would get easier, and there would even be a time not too far in the future, when my son would come home on college breaks and I’d be happy to see him return to school. I’m not there yet, but I now understand her words of wisdom—sometimes knowing less is best.
As the New Year starts I’m still without resolutions, unless resolving to continue my ignorance is bliss attitude counts.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband and two sons for the past 14 years. She’s a freelance writer and contributor to Picket Fence Media since 2006.
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