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For Your Marriage

Rob & Kathy were high school sweethearts who have been married for thirty years. They blog about the lessons they're still learning each day as spouses, parents, and grandparents.

The Empty Nest

I thought an empty nest meant downsizing.

So, one would think that with four out of five kids graduated from college and three (soon four) already married, we would be downsizing and simplifying. And, in some ways that would be correct. We have been weeding through many of our possessions and ‘decluttering.’ Donating boxes and bags of excess stuff; doing a good number of projects to clean up, repaint, organize, etc. We make a really good team and work well together on these projects. Since it is typically just the two of us around the house, we enjoy our time together and find that we still like each other (a lot!). While working on these projects, spontaneous conversations occur and we often find ourselves planning our dream “empty nest” home.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that tidy, neat, and trim—maybe even upgraded—home. Grandchildren started appearing…four and counting.

Although we finally bought new living room furniture after many years, we also started bringing back many of the items we had stowed away: the toy box, booster seats, wagon, blocks…and all the things we had worn out or donated to someone else, we are now buying again: a stroller, pack-n-play, car seat, riding fire truck. Despite Kathy’s urging, Rob is drawing the line at getting a new swing set and sandbox. He’ll settle on bringing out the cornhole set; it won’t be a permanent fixture in the yard.

There is even a whole new wing of our library dedicated to kid books. We can’t even get rid of the old VHS player, because how would we play the classic old kid videos we somehow never got rid of?

If that were not enough, we had to revert back to ‘kid-proofing’ our house before visits: securing cabinet doors, cleaning supplies, moving the landline portable phone off the low table, putting the wood stove pokers in a place where a curious toddler can’t get to them. We have to prep the house before the grandkids arrive and re-position everything after they leave.

And just when we thought we might not have a minivan for the first time in 25 years, we find ourselves grateful we didn’t get rid of the one we still have. We also fooled ourselves thinking we would put fewer miles on our cars without multiple weekend soccer tournaments, but find that trips to grandkids in different states easily make up the difference. Those relaxing, quiet weekends are fewer now, offset by these road trips and family events.

So, yes, we had good intentions of upgrading and renovating our home and we have made and some progress in that area, but we are also realizing that we still want it to be a comfortable place where kids and grandkids can have fun and be themselves.

When we reflect on family gatherings rarely do we recall the great décor at Grandma or Papa’s house; what we do recall are the fun times, the laughter, the meals, the special treats, the people. It is the desire to be with family that brings us together. The bonds we share help us get through difficult times as a family.

We find ourselves grateful now for the times we are alone as a couple but also blessed when we have a full house of grandkids and family. After all, an empty nest … that’s ‘for the birds.’

Keep the Faith.