I was the third and youngest child, the one left at home when my siblings went to college. Being the baby of the family had its perks and drawbacks. I will never forget, the moment I realized my sister leaving home meant leaving me home with mom and dad. I know we are all amazing parents, but the older our kids get, the less time they want to spend with us. Crazy, right? Actually, it’s normal!
Soon, it will be time for my second daughter to fly the coop and high tail it out of our house. Recently, during her graduation party, I looked at my youngest, my son and thought, “It’s going to be great having mom and dad’s attention all to yourself. Also, it’s going to be crap having mom and dad’s attention all to yourself.”
When things change, the scales get tipped, and we need to fidget and squirm to get back into balance. When we have only one child left at home, it feels strange, different. Truth is, many of us are tired. We all have our minds set on what will it be like to have a true empty nest, but we cannot rush it. Our youngest kids deserve the same attention, love and compassion that our other children were given.
When our last kid is the only one left at home, we can feel good about all the hard word we have done as parents. We can breathe a little easier, but it is not time to throw a rager quiet yet. Here a simple, no nonsense list of what not to say to your youngest, when the others have gone off to college.
1. “You don’t mind if I binge watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and stay in bed for 48 hours, do you?”
Me time – we all want it, need it, love it. Having the youngest at home, is not “me time.” He still needs your attention. She still needs your interest. Soon enough, you will have all the me time in the world, and remember fondly, all that “we time.” Don’t wish life to move faster than it already does.
2. “Do you want a pet now because you are lonely?”
Don’t project. Maybe your youngest likes being the only kid still at home. Maybe, not. Maybe, it is you that is lonely. Pets are a big commitment. Sometimes a big cry and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s helps when older siblings leave home.
3. “Thank you for being so quiet, I forgot what that was like in our house.”
If it’s too quiet, find out what’s going on. While it may feel peaceful, don’t assume it’s a good thing. Even one kid should make a certain amount of noise. Teens are meant to be loud – and messy.
4. “You better keep up your grades if you want to go to a good college like your sisters.”
All kids are different. All deserve their own path, college process and choice of what comes next after graduation. Being the youngest can make a kid feel like they are always walking in their older siblings footsteps. Let them know in different ways, they are their own person and valued.
5. “By the time you get around to graduating, I am not sure if there will be any money left for you to go to college.”
Sometimes money issues or job loss happens. Figure it out, or find a way to make it work. Get creative, and be encouraging and optimistic. Your teen will follow your lead. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
6. “Pizza again?”
With only one kid at home, it may be tempting to cook less or eat dinner in front of the television. It’s still important to eat together, and connect over a balanced dinner.
7. “We are thinking of moving.”
With only your youngest at home, you are that much closer to drinking margaritas in that house by the beach you have been dreaming about all those years. But, kids need stability. While it is sometimes necessary to downsize to help pay for college, moving without reason can have be difficult for your youngest at home. Too much change is stressful. If possible, wait until you are empty nesters.
8. “Let’s take a poll on your new curfew.”
Why it may be tempting to release the reigns over time, kids need rules and they need you to create them. Even if it is only to break them.
9. “The ACT/SAT again?”
Junior year is draining. College applications and entrance exams are stressful. While you have done this before and been through it with your other children, your youngest has not. He deserves your full attention and support.
10. “You are my last hope for a college scholarship.”
It would be so nice if our kids received a college scholarship based on merit or athleticism. If this happens, it is wonderful. Putting undue pressure on your youngest – not so much.
11. “There is no room left on the car for your college sticker.”
No explanation needed.
12. “You are the only one left at home – now I can drown you with my attention.”
Guidance, unconditional love, rules are ok. Hovering is not. It is suffocating, and can create resentment and acting out. Hobbies are a wonderful way to become involved with something just for you.
Keeping life as normal as possible, is the best thing we can do for our youngest at home. Before you know it, the nest will be empty, and you may just be wishing you could do it all over again.