Independence, MO – I never dreamt how much things would change after Joe got his driver’s license on July 17.
For years, Kate and I spent evenings and weekends shuttling our tribe to Scouts, sports, music and church. We still do that for Tom, our 9-year-old, but most of Maggie’s activities overlap Joe’s.
Between that and the time Tom spends during summer with cousins and grandparents, we’ve gotten a glimpse recently of what it feels like to be empty nesters.
We’ve had some great times. On several recent weeknights, Kate and I were able to steal away for unexpected dinner dates. We’ve also logged some great runs in the neighborhood and on nearby trails.
But the lack of chaos feels odd. After years of racing headlong from work into the evening craziness, the newfound time seems misplaced. Aren’t we supposed be running a million miles a minute with a Suburban and station wagon full of kids?
The calendar explains part of our sudden sense of space. We’re in the late summer doldrums, that narrow band of time after camp and vacation but before school.
Yet I’m also aware we’re glimpsing our future. Joe will be a high school junior this year, and Maggie’s only two years behind him. Before you know it, our big Cap Code will feel empty with only Tom, the cats and dogs and the two of us banging around.
I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but it’s true: Time flies.
Joe driving? It’s hard to believe. It seems only last week he was running around the house with an upside-down popcorn bowl styled as a Chief’s helmet on his head – regular-sized football helmets were too big.
Maggie a high school freshman? I remember the family vacation to Estes Park when she hiked all week in a papoose on my back, her only interest the next pretzel I’d hand her to gum and drool down my neck. Was that really 13 years ago?
Tom a fourth grader? Joe was 6 when we brought him home from the hospital, upset we hadn’t named him Joe 2. That was almost 10 years ago, but it feels like yesterday.
“Time goes by so fast. Nothin’ can outrun it,” Tennessee Williams wrote 57 years ago in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
The sentiment is just as true today as when Williams penned the classic play. And though I can’t outrun time, I can do my best to keep up with it.
Which is exactly what I intend to do.
Our tesseract has reminded me to cherish every day. Seasons of soccer games and years of Boy Scout overnights remain before Kate and I truly become empty nesters, but we’ll see the future – and the present – differently now.
I suspect we’ll suppress a grin the next time a fight breaks out on the way to piano lessons. There’ll be a bit more spring in our step the next time we pop out of bed to drive Maggie to school for a 6 a.m. cross country practice. I may even welcome the next rainy Scout overnight, more aware than before that I won’t be camping forever with my Scout-aged son.
And, because of those things, Kate and I will be ready for our next night without kids, more grateful than ever for an unplanned date.