OK, parents. You need to stop and I mean, right now. Stop spending time with your children. Stop finding them hilarious and adorable, and above all, stop taking them anywhere the least bit fun. That means stop taking them anywhere, because, you may have noticed, just having them along can make the ordinary fun.
Why am I throwing down these harsh rules? It’s for your own good, I promise. It will make their inevitable departure in some future September, much, much less awkward for you. That stage may seem light years away, but if you fail to heed my warning, you will, in time, find yourself being ambushed by memories in the oddest moments.
Even though my bums graduated from high school 12 years ago, I still have skirmishes with that pesky empty-nest thing. I’m not saying that having a child-free existence doesn’t offer a solid number of upsides. You can clean a kitchen and, with a little clever use of paper plates and the microwave, it might well stay clean for up to 24 hours. Your laundry diminishes tenfold, you never want for a clean towel, you rarely step in unexpected puddles in unexpected places and the milk lasts past its expiration date.
But just when you think you have it knocked, you’ll open your car window along Coast Highway and smell salt air, wood smoke and a hint of roasted marshmallows. Suddenly your head is filled with images of sandy, slightly sunburned, happy children, and a summer full of warm memories.
You might get past that, but then you’ll stop by an office supply store and find yourself near tears because you will never need to shop for school supplies again. For some weird reason, I always enjoyed the mandatory time they had to spend with me to gather the necessary gear.
Last week I misted over when I saw a coupon for Knott’s Scary Farm. Our elementary district has a break right before Halloween, so we always had time for great road trips. We used to have glorious Halloweens with weeks of costume prep, pumpkin buying and good fun. Halloween’s so quiet now, I started serving up hot dogs in the driveway.
When the memories overtake me, I need to take some bold steps to keep the blues at bay. Happy hour with my girlfriends is a very good start, and perhaps a massage and a good book. They aren’t the sweet scent of a happy, post-beach kiddo or the glow of goofy, kid-carved pumpkins, but I think it will distract me until Thanksgiving.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer whose kids were too much fun. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.