They’ve paid their dues as PTO parents and as Coach and Kool-Aid Mom, and now, the “end of the dock” has come and gone.
Over the past several years, the birds of their flock have flown (right off the end of the dock — or was it their diving board?), but this couple is not the type to stand on the last plank and ponder sinking or swimming. Instead, they, too, intend to fly.
Besides, there are days when the Adamczyk nest doesn’t feel exactly empty.
When I stopped by, feathers were flying everywhere, as 24-year-old-daughter Erica chatted in the kitchen with some long-missed girlfriends, her son perched on her hip. A picture-text had just come from 19-year-old Ethan, a Lake High School graduate and basketball scholarship recipient at Lake Erie College, and it informed Mom and Dad of an ominous-looking, purple, swollen ankle injury.
Amidst all the excitement, my hosts led me poolside, to the outdoor
living area, where I finally entered the quiet, empty-nest world of Kim and
The best of friends, Will and Kim sat comfortably close on the settee. They told me that though their son is a sophomore this year, this fall feels like the first year of “empty nesting,” because of life circumstances last year. Having moved their daughter home after finishing an acting program in New York City, their focus was on helping her adjust to life changes. They also had a wedding to plan.
Because “empty nests” often occur in stages, sometimes seeing the oldest off is the greatest adjustment.
Kim recalls that the transition was “much harder” with her daughter, because she went so far away.
“We took her to New York City and left her there. We were driving home, and we said, ‘We just left our beautiful, blond daughter from Hartville, Ohio, in New York City. Are we insane?’”
Moving their son less than two hours away seemed simple by comparison.
When their daughter moved, they discovered Skype (six years ago, before it found popularity in the main stream) as a way to keep their family close. Erica could be part of family gatherings and Super Bowl Festivities. They even had remote birthday parties where they’d “carry her around” and she’d talk to people.
“It was just funny!” Kim said, “Then we’d sing ‘Happy Birthday.'”
Sometimes, they’d put the computer at Erica’s spot at the dinner table during the week.
“That was a big change in our family dynamic. My kids were always close and had rarely fought. There had always been four of us. Erica is an actress; she’s very entertaining. We all missed her.”
But since Ethan “travels in a posse,” their house was always full of kids. Teens gathered daily at the Adamczyk home, especially in summer, because of the pool. In some ways, that dynamic made the transition easier.
Though Will misses hanging with his son — his action-movie pal — and Kim misses shopping with her daughter — her “chic flick” partner — they are
happy that they have a great relationship with each other.
One of the biggest changes has involved meal times and how they eat. Whereas teenage boys go for bigger, more caloric meals, Will and Kim eat lighter and later than they once did. Both are very involved in their careers, making time investments that will help them to change gears and prepare for retirement. As best friends, they look forward to that day.
“You read stories about people who have dropped out of corporate life and go live on an island in the Pacific, and we say, ‘Wouldn’t that be cool?’ It’s not reality, but we have those discussions, and we’re anticipating similar opportunities,” Will said.
As a professional financial planner, Will has prepared carefully for the future.
After “downsizing” several years ago, Will and Kim are now considering making further changes in their living situation, even before their youngest graduates from college.
Having been active, involved parents all these years, they feel it’s good to begin to focus on themselves, their relationship, their time together, their future.
“I passed the ninth grade, the tenth grade, the eleventh and twelfth,” Kim jokes, now with complete comfort regarding her “hands-off” approach to her son’s present college years.
When people ask: “What are you going to do with your time now?” Kim’s immediate response is: “Anything we want…”
She laughs, the unapologetic, happy celebration of a mother who has done her job well and is reaping the rewards.
“They have this look on their face, and I think, ‘What? Am I supposed to be sad? That’s what you’re supposed to do. Raise your kids to go off on their own!’” Kim said.
“Enjoy them, and when they leave, let them know they’re always welcome home. We had so many important memories and we’ll always have those,” Will added.
Kim and Will enjoy hosting family gatherings (like this Labor Day Weekend —pass the chips, please, and be sure to refill the pitcher!). They look forward to a future of those, especially with a grandson to enjoy. They also have a healthy perspective on the next generation’s need to start their own traditions.
The couple’s travel goals involve Kim’s desire to see Spain, Switzerland and France (they’ve been to other places in Europe) and to return to Hawaii. Will wants to see more of the U.S. (perhaps in an R.V.!). The nest feels full of excitement, as opposed to “empty.”
“Right now, we want to set the stage for the next stage. It’s a cool time,” Will said.
In addition to their plans to “go,” they also have plans to “stay.” They want to be proactive about their health and preserve time to pursue hobbies like recording and categorizing original music and family videos (Will) and scrapbooking and organizing life’s “basement collections” (Kim). They look forward to helping young families of their church who are “in the thick of parenting” to plan for the future while they appreciate a present that may seem challenging.
Will admits that though he wasn’t a perfect parent, he was honest with his kids about that. “I would say, ‘I’ve never been the father of a 16-year-old daughter, but this is what I feel like I should do…’”
Resting in the parenting job he’s done, he hopes to encourage other parents to make the most of their time with their kids and to help them to know that when their little ones have flown, they can enjoy that time, too.
“Faith is the foundation to marriage and family. We are excited to have our relationship and enjoy our kids who are grown, and their kids. You don’t know how long you have. Savor every day. Embrace each season,” Will said.
Editor's note: Donna Noble is looking for a couple who's willing to chat about their kids leaving the nest. If you're interested, send Donna an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.