The End of Summer, and Other Things

Here’s a picture of Athena on the last day of summer. The next day (today, as I’m writing this after midnight) we bundle her and much of her belongings into the minivan and head down to Oxford, Ohio, where Athena begins her time at Miami University. We’ll drop her off, help her get situated, and then drive away, to come home to a house that for the first time ever will not have her in it on a regular basis. It’s a good and expected and desired thing to have her start this part of her life. But it will be different. If there was any doubt that our daughter is no longer a child (even when she remains our child), coming home to a house without her will be the closing argument on that.

It’s nothing new in the annals of history, mind you. Children leave home all the time. But it’s new to us. And that’s the thing. We’ll be fine, and Athena will only be an hour (and a text or a tweet or phone call) away. But it will still be different without her. A little bit of each of our hearts goes with her when she goes.

That’s all I want to say about it right now. Except to reiterate again how much I love my daughter, and how proud I am of her for who she’s become and excited for who she has yet to become in these next few years. What a wonderful time for her, and for us. Still, I hope you’ll understand if I’m a little out of it the next several days. It’ll just be me, missing my kid.

43 Comments on “The End of Summer, and Other Things”

  1. For me, the most melancholy truth about parenting is that, if we do our job well, we make ourselves unnecessary. Yes, we will always be there for our children, and they may continue to need us in ways large and small throughout their lives, but not in the same way. We do everything we can to make them independent, confident, productive and compassionate people, and then they go into the world to fulfill that promise. I’m happy and sad for you at the same time.

  2. Having children is setting a little piece of your heart free to roam the world. We will be happy and sad for you (and look forward to, and dread, the moment when it comes for us in nine years).

  3. Is she still going to arrange to have a photo of herself on her first day of class taken for you to post? It’d be a shame to miss that.

    I suppose my parents have yet to truly feel empty nestish, as I left for college when my sister was six or seven — and she still lives at home, which she also did while getting her BA. Our parents travel a lot more than they used to, though, for weeks at a time, so maybe it’s more the other way around.

  4. Congratulation again to Athena. She seems like she is off to a fine start, both as a person and in her situation. Congratulations to Krissy and you for getting her there.

  5. Aw, nice. You guys and Barack and Michelle are going through the same thing.(as they dropped Malia off at Harvard yesterday). As a non-parent, I can’t say “I know how you feel” but I have a good imagination. I’m sure Athena will do great. You will too, in time.

  6. Success and happiness to Athena as she embarks on the great adventure!

    And sympathies to her parents as they adjust back to being a household of two instead of three. It has been fourteen years since we took our younger kid off to college a couple of hours away, and I will never forget the feeling of emptiness and quiet in the house after his departure. We got used to it, of course, and it has been tremendously rewarding to watch both of our kids become confident, independent, successful adults – but there is no feeling quite like that moment when the dorm room door closes with the offspring on the other side, and the parents start that long walk back to the car without them.

    Be gentle with yourselves, all of you.

  7. I have two kids at the University of Minnesota just 20 minutes away. I know just how you feel. After two years of empty nest I still find myself thinking “right there is where we used to build things with blocks”, and “right there is where we used to wrestle, and I lost every match”.

  8. Just wait until she goes back for her senior year ;) My daughter just went back for her senior year. So we are facing the fact that she will likely never be home for 2-3 straight months again. Lots of kids return home after college for a while, I did. But I’ll be shocked if my daughter does. She has stuff to do, and I don’t think that stuff will be commuting distance from home.

  9. It’s scary – my oldest daughter starts college later this month (she has 3 siblings behind her, so won’t exactly be empty nesters yet) and we’ll be making the move soon – not far away at all, but still not at home. It’s clearly a rite of passage for both children AND their parents (maybe especially parents).

  10. I feel you. Moved my daughter to Ypsilanti for her third year on Tuesday. She’s living off campus for the first time, and we had to rent a truck for some furniture which I realize may not return to our house. So I’m driving the truck solo on the turnpike, and Rush’s “Time Stand Still” comes on the radio. DAMMIT, MAN.

  11. It is a strange feeling to have children move away. Natural and unnatural. Our children are at a point where they really are very interesting and growing into the persons they will become and I don’t get to see that growth as closely as before. You know as well as I our children have the same sort of sadness of having to leave and it is my hope as I know it is yours that the children become better than us. Thank you for your honesty and thread of melancholy.

  12. I hope you find it is a gentle transition-she is far enough away to establish her independence, close enough that you can drive down and take her out dinner occasionally. I know she will thrive! And these college years go so quickly. A lifetime for them and a blink for the parents. And then all of a sudden they have taken a job in New England and you realize you will only see YOUR CHILD three or four times a year and . . . sorry, I’ve got something in my eye. Sniff.

  13. I’m long past that time when our children moved out. Our daughter left for college in 1996 and except for the summer after her freshman year, she never came back for longer than a week or two. Our son moved out a year later. Over the course of the last twenty years they have come and gone depending on jobs ending, relationships ending, and other passages in their lives. I remember oh so well the feeling you are feeling now. It does change everything, but its simply another chapter in your lives: you are a couple again! The nice part for us is that after about 15 years of living around the world, both of our kids returned to their home town area and now live within 15 minutes of us which makes seeing the grandchildren (and our kids) a very easy, almost daily, occurrence. We get to see and relate to them as adults and parents. We are very, very grateful for having them (and the next generation) in our lives again on a regular basis.

  14. We live near campus in a college town and both my boys went to school here, with my youngest – who just completed his english lit degree this spring – having lived at home throughout. He just moved out a month ago leaving my wife and I as empty nesters for the first time. It’s odd and sad not having him around but I think we’ve already saved hundreds of dollars on groceries! :)

  15. Even with them out of the house, your kids still manage to be a presence. My older daughter is in Davis, about an hour and a half from here; the younger is in Sarasota. But through the miracle of technology I am still applied to for advice, suggestions, and talking them out of trees. The parenting continues in new ways–but it does make it hard to hug someone who’s 2000 miles away.

  16. I’m at the other end of that road… My daughter is just 5 months. I hope she grows up to be just as determined and capable as Athena. Thank you for being a good example of how to parent.

  17. It’s not a farewell, it’s just a change. Now you get to relate to her as a young woman instead of a child. And you have decades to explore this new relationship.

    You can be proud of having raised such an awesome kid. The rest of her life is up to her, but you’ve given her a terrific start. You’re a good dad.

  18. My only will leave in a couple years. I’m looking forward to her beginning a life of, I hope, endless wonder and good work (while making more than a few mistakes). She’s worried though because her mom, my ex, is saying she will follow her wherever she goes.

    Super personal, Mr. Scalzi, but the boy she was went to prom with… is he off to college, too? Are they still a pair?

  19. Parenthood: That long graduate school in the art of feeling 50 things at once. Best of luck to Athena, though she won’t need it, and congratulations to her parents for doing such a good job!

  20. Saw the moving in pictures and I must say; the old fart in me is quite pleased to see a dorm room with cinder-block walls again. Cinder-block walls, lofted bed, and a wardrobe are essential elements of the dorm room. All that was missing was the cheap tile floor. 9/10

  21. Odd, I was just thinking about her now and came here–to find this. My son is a year younger than Athena. He’s coming to that curve in the road and I really don’t want to get there any time soon, if it were up to me(hell, I want my 3 year old back). Hang in there, amigo. Sure, it’s Life but now it’s your life and that’s all that matters right now. Abrazos.

  22. I sent my almost-14-year old to her new high school yesterday. It’s an arts high school and she’ll attend in the afternoons after classes at our local HS. She’s not leaving home– but I still miss her like crazy for those extra hours. Like Athena, she is funny and interesting and very much herself, and while I’m excited for her and I know she needs to start stretching her wings, it’s SO hard to start letting her further out into the world. Much love to Krissy, and to you. To Athena, a level head and all the great things she knows are out there for her.

  23. Wow, big changes for all. But you’re all up to that.
    Athena’s room looks so much nicer than mine did, cough-cough years ago, but the cinder blocks look familiar.

  24. I was lucky to have my kids go to the college where I teach. I even had the experience of having them take some of my classes (and hearing them wonder if I graded them harder than the other kids :) ). Right now I am teaching a pre-regular semester class we have for incoming new students, and it is a time-consuming yet wonderful experience, teaching and talking with a room full of eighteen-year old people! (Not to mention grading their papers and quizzes and introducing them to a level of rigor they usually do not expect.) From what I have seen of your daughter through your comments here I am sure she will be a true delight for her professors to teach. And all my kids are now graduated and gone from the house, so I know how disconcerting that can be. My congratulations on this wonderful milestone for your family.

  25. And this just reinforces my belief that you are one of the rarest creatures on this earth, a truly good man of my/our generation.

    Thank you for existing.

  26. Yes, sending them off to college is a milestone … but weddings are as well. Something for our host to keep in mind.

    Best of luck to the Redhawk!

  27. “A little bit of each of our hearts goes with her when she goes.”

    We moved our first son into his dorm room less than two weeks ago. It’s an instate college about two hours away.

    But still.

    We are so proud and yet we miss him SO MUCH.

    Right there with you.

    Best to your family.

  28. This day happened thirteen years ago for me. Both kids in the span of two weeks. I’m still not quite used to their absence.

  29. I should not have read this. I KNEW I shouldn’t read it, yet I still did. Darn you, Scalzi.
    (Really…much LOVE to you & Kristine. I knew it would be hard, but I still have one at home…you do not…although you DO have kitties and doggies.)