And Then There Will Be Three

As of late, our family unit is looking a little bit smaller, about twenty-five percent smaller, to be exact. With the older boy being a high school senior who works and has a girlfriend, more and more dinner conversations, outings, and movie-watching evenings include only Jim, the younger boy, and me.

It’s weird.

We’re in the final six month stretch: the older boy will be away at college starting this fall. While I look forward to this next major transition because it means that he is one step closer to being the independent adult we have been raising him to be, of course there is a bittersweet taste to it all.

When I start to feel sad though, I remind myself that children aren’t meant to stay with their parents forever. They are meant to leave home and start their own lives, cutting the cord that binds us, and our parental reward is seeing them succeed without our constant assistance.

Those of us that will be left behind this fall will be minus a family member only in body, not in spirit. There will always be a place for him at the dinner table, whenever he wants to come home for visits. The permanence of his moving out will be very strange, as we really never dreamed when he was born nearly eighteen years ago that we would ever actually get to this point. The good news is, the world works in wonderful ways: I know we’re in training for the actual transition right now. It’s not a situation where he’s here all of the time now and then tomorrow he’s not; we’re blessed to be going through this gradually. To be honest, it’s fine. It actually feels…nice.

When it’s just three of us, conversations are different. Good, but different. There is no sibling-style jostling for position. It’s a little less chaotic. It’s quiet. It’s…comfortable.*

Jim and I have had many moments over the past couple of years during which we felt like we’ve been short-changing–unintentionally, mind you–the younger boy because of the sharp focus on the goings-on of his brother. The Boy Scout Eagle Project, the college search, the scholarship hunt, and reconciling his busy schedule with that of the rest of the family have all been big inconveniences to the younger boy. It couldn’t be helped. We often worry about his feeling left out, left behind, or jealous of the attention his older brother is afforded, but in checking in with his emotions regularly we remind him that it’ll be “all him” around here in a matter of months. It’s funny; when the younger boy was a newborn, we were often worried that we were short-changing–unintentionally, mind you–the older boy because of the sharp focus on the goings-on of his baby brother. I guess it’s all a normal part of the juggling act that parents do, always trying to keep things completely fair, even though, really, that’s impossible. Yet we still try.

I often think about how very cool it is that we had nearly three years alone with the older boy in those special toddler years before the younger boy came along, and how very cool it is going to be that we will have three years alone with the younger boy in these special teen years before he follows his brother to (not necessarily the same) college. As I look across the dinner table at the young man he’s become, occasionally in the shadow of someone else, I am so proud.

I’m also filled with great anticipation about the magic the next three years will show us. I say, bring it on.

*It is like this when it’s just us with the older boy, too.


©2010 Suburban Scrawl


  • Mom24

    As you know, the transition is hard for us…Julianna's already having crying jags. The one thing I am looking a bit forward to is not having everything revolve around her schedule anymore. 🙂

    Glad you're enjoying your special time with your youngest. Treasure it. It will fly by all too quickly.

  • PJ Mullen

    It is interesting to hear about these things. As we prepare for #2's arrival, we are thinking of ways and planning things to make sure our son doesn't feel left out or short changed. I can only imagine that it is going to be a difficult balancing act.

  • Liz@thisfullhouse

    Awwwww, made me all teary-eyed (my oldest is a sophomore) although, my in-laws had someone living in their house for the last 52 years and, well, they just can't seem to get rid of their kids…FWIW.

  • Tara R.

    We're going thru the same thing in our family with the oldest already at college, and the youngest being basically an only child.

    It was a big transition here too, feeling guilty about not including our oldest in some of our activities, but we try to make up for it when she comes home on breaks.

  • sandra

    I love this, Melisa. Absolutely admire the relationship you and your husband have with your kids. Makes me admire my mom's job as a single mother, too.

    (Although I never went away and am still at home–had to for financial reasons, but am looking forward to when I leaving the nest!)

  • Huckdoll

    You're so right. It is very cool that you had and will have the one on one time alone with the boys because in my case with twins, I never had that and probably never will. That makes me sad sometimes but sometimes it's really neat that they'll have each other to lean on through the growing years.

    "I guess it's all a normal part of the juggling act that parents do, always trying to keep things completely fair, even though, really, that's impossible."

    Ha … keeping things completely fair 100% of the time is my life! 😀

    This was an excellent post, as usual. Got the eyes watery. xo

  • Heather

    I'm so excited for you guys because this is such an awesome time for him, and for you, as parents. And I think you are handling it wonderfully– it takes GOOD parents to recognize that it's time to let go, but you can still be sad about it. I remember a lot of my friends parents being so devestated when we all left for college, and I always thought that was weird– My mom was like, "Go", ha ha but she's a different story all together. 😉

  • kat

    Your words were so beautiful, you could feel the love flow right through them. I admit that I'm misty eyed and I gotta go call my parents now.

  • This Belle Rocks

    Good points! My children are only a year apart, so I only get a year with my youngest before he follows suit. It'll be very weird….

  • Mags

    I'm not gonna lie-I got a little teary eyed this morning when I read this. I can't even imagine how weird it feels when the family dynamic changes a little. I have no doubt that everything will be alright. 🙂

  • Michelle

    *sniff* That's beautiful, Melisa! Those are some gorgeous thoughts, and I totally get them – except for the being ready to let go part. Yay to good parenting!

  • Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist

    My husband still jokes about how much HIS life improved when his older brother went away to college. He loved it. 😉

  • Movie Maven Gal

    I've been feeling like we're concentrating solely on our oldest lately. Heck, our entire spring break trip is centered around college visits.

    Thanks for the reminder that each boy is going to get their time in the sun. I'll have to talk to my middle son and remind him, too.

  • Jason @ The Devoted Dad

    I like your view on how the cyclical nature of parenting is natural- because I know that this is something that I 'worry' about as well and my kids are just at the beginning of it all.

  • SoccerMom

    I was at that point 2 years ago. My daughter is now in college and only my son is left at home.

    My son is currently a freshman in H.S.,while its sad, It's not as hard as when the first one moved out.

    We are now planning adult trips and fantasizing about all the alone time we will have once again.

    So there is a bright side.

  • nycgirl0501

    See in our family it was the younger one that left home for school first. I stayed local so it was shock for my mom to have "her baby" be so far away.

    As a sister I felt a huge void and it sucked for awhile to be the sibling "left behind". I have this "empty chair" notion when we went out to eat…it sort of bums me out when I am feeling emotional even still(sis lives 4 hours away).

    But nothing beat the rush of energy we all feel when we know we will all be together for a few days! Life goes on…