Home Alone: How a Youngest Child Copes As Sibs Depart

People told me that if I could live through raising teenage girls, the boy would be nice to me.

Those people lied.

This kid of mine, the youngest child and last one home, the boy who would crawl in bed and watch Sports Center with us, squishing his 6 ft frame between his incredible shrinking parents, has turned. He used to talk about sports and music and school and really, really dumb YouTube videos.

How a youngest child copes when his older siblings leave for college.


Now he says nothing at all. And I can’t stand it.

It took 51 one years, but I am finally outnumbered by men. Kid3 out of the house for freshman year, Kid2 unfathomably, ridiculously thriving in college, and Kid1 is completely off the payroll (apt, job, benefits. WINNING!).

So these days it’s just rather attractive husband, the boy, and me.

How’s it going?


Some friends thought Boy would talk non-stop once the girls were gone, being he could barely get a word in the past 15 years or so.

I was afraid the girls would leave and no one would ever make a sound in my house again.

I won.

The house is a man cave; the only sound, the da-da, da-da of ESPN echoing through the rooms.

His preferred method of communication is texting. I can do that, I say! I’ll speak his language!! Except I get one word, or one letter, answers to texts, usually:

Y. N. Done. K. Food? Mistyvale? Here?

Monosyllabic grunts pepper any attempt at real conversation too. Plenty of male head nods, acceptable in some sort of male hierarchy athletic bullshit language, like I’m a lax bro or soccer pro, which sends this menopausal mamma over the edge. So I calmly promised to follow him into school, practice, chem lab, diner – where ever – braless and in my pjs, and coochy-coo-kiss him in front of all his friends and remind him to take his allergy nose spray if he EVER male head nods me again. This, thus far, has worked, and I highly recommend it.

I did learn to dap though, this is the preferred form of greeting, good-bye, congratulations, and oh-man-that-sucks-condolence offering for the 16 and under crowd. Quite useful, until I dapped the entire JV soccer team and am now banned from ever doing so again, which I completely understand. I overstepped, but I was starved for information, so can you blame me? Was trying to speak to the natives, you know?

Now that he’s flying solo, he gets the good cereal. The real junky stuff – vacation cereal – because someone once advised this was a good transition for the last kid standing. Kinda like bringing a gift for the older sibling when a new baby arrived. The girls are furious, but he eats a Costco-size box of this crap a week, usually in one sitting, measured in two episodes of The Office.

While he barely speaks to us these days, he apparently snapchats and texts his sisters all the time. He misses them, and maybe that’s what he’s trying to tell me in his sullen, moody way. He misses the noise and commotion and endless chatter as much as I do. The dirty dishes, the empty ice cream cartons, the fighting, laughing, and teasing. The disgusting bathroom, endless episodes of The Office, and car rides to school sneaking in mandatory stops at Dunkin. Their loud, embarrassing voices are gone from bleachers, and their welcome buffer to the onslaught of attention from the ‘rents.

Perhaps the silence is too much for him to deal with, so he prefers the Bartleby response: he prefers not to answer. And I don’t blame him. Not one bit.

unnamedKate Mayer is a potty-mouthed, sometimes cynical storyteller, humorist, and activist sharing life as she lives it in Newtown, Connecticut. She is a recent, reluctant inductee to AARP, the co-creator of two quasi-adults and two wannabees, and an aspiring writer with the rejections to prove it. She is sometimes funny on Instagram and Twitter as @klmcopy, has invisible friends on Facebook, and writes about teenagers, midlife, social issues, feminism, and gun violence prevention at www.kathrynmayer.com.


About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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