The Next Round, Now What?
Written by: Cheri Jones, Parent ’16 & ’18
After signing his Statement of Intent to Register at Bruin Day, 2014, our youngest son, Adam, had the opportunity to ring the victory bell on campus, signifying his start as a Bruin! That bell also signaled the start of the next round in our lives as “Empty Nesters” and led us to ask ourselves, “Now what?”
Our oldest son, Zack, has been a Bruin since 2012, and now his brother was going to join him. It was VERY exciting news, as my parents met at UCLA in 1958 and now two of their grandsons would be joining the Bruin Family! It also meant that we, as parents, would be able to continue our involvement as members of the Bruin Family with both of our sons attending UCLA. We could carry on those Bruin traditions of the 8-clap, attending games at The Rose Bowl and Pauley Pavilion, and wearing our blue and gold without the worry of having to divide our allegiance between two universities. We would be able to visit both boys at once , and they could carpool home together and meet each other for dinner while sharing the same campus as their new home.
All very happy and exciting times ahead, but after we moved our youngest into his dorm, we realized this next round in our lives would be very different from what we have come to know and call “normal.” We had adjusted after our first son moved to campus. But the activities of high school’s senior year and interests of our younger son kept us busy while we learned how to live without the oldest one at home each day. Now, things would really change – and they have.
My husband, Dann, and I are adapting to our new life. Don’t get me wrong, at times I still long for the noise in a house with two teen boys! I really do miss hearing Adam practicing his drumming from his room and Zack playing the piano or his trombone. We miss the daily chatter and laughter between brothers about life, school, and interesting tidbits of information. Most of all, we miss the daily contact. However, we now look forward to seeing our sons or talking with them on the phone, and we cherish each one of those times. We love to hear about their UCLA lives — their amazing classes, interesting professors, friends they’ve made, and the activities which they are involved in. We’ve also listened and offered advice, when able, about the rigors of coursework, decisions about schedules or roommates, and the difficult times that have been encountered along the way. Though we sometimes miss the way it was, I wouldn’t change any of it. After all, this is what the next round should be all about, adjusting to our empty nest and hearing how our children are growing into young, independent adults.
We’ve found that our routines around the house have drastically changed. No longer do we need to join in carpools to high school activities, shop at Costco, or even have dinner every night! We are able to fill the numerous hours we used to volunteer for their activities with other endeavors – adding a second, part-time job, exploring hobbies, traveling, and even joining an “Empty Nesters Club” that some friends of ours created. We get together for dinner or other outings and share stories of having our kids away at school. It has also been very rewarding becoming members of the UCLA Parents Council . We joined last year and it has been a great experience! We’ve enjoyed meeting other families, listening to faculty speak about resources around campus, and volunteering during Move-in Weekend, Orientation, and the Dashew Center’s Thanksgiving Dinner event. Most of all, it has given us a connection to UCLA, our sons’ new home, and enables us to share what we’ve learned with them.
It can be challenging when your Bruin(s) return home for the holidays and suddenly your empty nest is full again. It’s a fun time having everyone home sharing stories and meals together. However, the transition can be difficult for some. We heard this scenario when we were going through this transition the first time, “Your kids will probably show up back at home with a huge bag of dirty laundry, dump it on the floor, say ‘thanks Mom,’ and then leave to go see their friends.” Remember, they WILL want to see their friends/girl/boyfriends and they WILL bring laundry home! The advice given to us that we’ll pass along is that communication is the key. After hearing that scenario, we were sure to discuss our expectations with our son about family and friend visiting times, and we were all able to enjoy wonderful holiday times together without him having to sacrifice catching up with his friends back home.
After the holidays are over and it’s time to move your kids back into their dorm or apartment, enjoy your empty, or almost-empty, nest and continue supporting them through this next round of your family’s life. Celebrate the time you have together and have a Happy Thanksgiving!