Something you begin to realize as you get older is that you are not the only one going through changes.
My parents have begun the process of becoming empty-nesters. My younger brother has graduated from high school and will be leaving for college in August. It will be the first time in some 30-plus years that my parents have the house to themselves.
It will be the first time in more than three decades that they will have only themselves to worry about. They will be able to go and do as they please, without regard to another person's schedule. They won't have to share their food and kitchen with another person, or the wide assortment of people that followed along.
They have three grandchildren with another on his way, but that's the great part of being a grandparent ... the children aren't theirs. When the little ones get out of hand, unruly or just wear them out, the grandparent can just send them home.
I've only been a parent for a few months, but in that brief time I've come to understand a little better what my parents were talking about. I know that they will miss the constant noise and traffic coming through the house. I'm sure my mom didn't really mind buying extra food for the neighborhood mooches (a.k.a. my friends), because she liked us being there. And I'm sure my father will miss the strange moments he experienced, like stumbling on his son and his best friend dyeing each other's hair in the utility sink in the basement. In our defense, his hair turned a weird yellow and my goatee turned orange, so that was the last time for that.
It seemed like our house was always a hub during our youth. My friends would constantly be in and out of the house, whether I wanted them to be or not. I even came home from practice one day to find my friend in an apron showing my mother how to make a dill sauce. Believe me, it's too weird a thing to make up. But that is what made it a really special place. My house was always cozy and welcoming, and people knew that.
Now, my parents are beginning the newest chapter of their lives, and I truly believe they are excited to try it out. There will be times when the house is packed with children and their children, but they will now have a chance to relax. They won't have to wait up until one or two in the morning, worrying about us being out late. They don't have to continually fix little things that ''accidentally'' broke due to an errant pass or the occasional fist. They don't have to break up fights between siblings or tell anyone to get to bed. They are now on their own.
Just like when we left the house, they worried about our ability to do things for ourselves. Now, I worry they won't be able to do things for only themselves. For so long they have been accounting for any number of extra bodies and now it's just them. Who knows? They may be gearing up for a cross-country bike trip or gutting the house and turning the whole thing into one big room. But that's the great part of it all. It's completely up to them. If my parents like a color of paint for a room that I would find aesthetically offensive, it doesn't matter because it's completely their choice. No more badgering. No more objections.
I will make sure to do my part in the transition by letting them have the baby overnight whenever they want him. Hey, if they want him for a weekend ... take him. But, they are about to start a new life and it's an exciting time. They've raised us well and let us loose on the world ... now we do the same.
Joshua can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org