It looks like we’re going to be empty-nesters sooner than we thought.
With Tabitha off at Small Liberal Arts College these days it’s been mostly the three of us here at the homestead. We’re doing okay with that. The wonders of communication these days keep the world pretty small, SLAC isn’t all that far away by midwestern standards, and Lauren’s still mostly around – or as much as a busy high schooler can be said to be around, anyway. I don’t recall spending much time at home when I was her age either.
But Lauren has always had a desire to travel, to be Somewhere Else, to see new things and do things she hadn’t done before. We’ve encouraged it, really. Familiar and normal are different things, and it’s good to get out and see how other people live. We have friends and family all over the country and across the world and visiting them has been both fun and educational for all of us. Lauren definitely has the travel bug.
She has been interested in studying abroad for a while now, and when the financial aspects of such programs became clear she took the initiative to search for programs that would pay for her to do it. She found a couple of them, the best of the lot being one run jointly by the US federal government and the government of this particular European host country. It’s a highly competitive application process – they don’t take many students – but it was something Lauren really wanted to do, so she went out and did it.
She researched the program. She filled out the forms. She got us to do the things that the parents needed to do. She had a live interview earlier this year that she arranged – we drove to Madison for it and I dropped her off at the interview site and wandered around for a bit until she was done. I never met the interviewer. Why should I have? This was Lauren’s project, after all.
This week they told her she won.
Sometime in the late summer Lauren will be headed across the Atlantic for an entire school year.
We’re excited, of course, and immensely proud of her for making it happen. This will be a fantastic experience for her, being immersed in another culture like that. As a parent your job is to make yourself progressively less necessary to your children’s lives – at some point they will stop needing you in their lives and, if you’ve done it right, start wanting you in their lives, which is a different thing – and she is stepping out into the world in a big way.
It’s also kind of melancholy, to be honest. Kim and I will be on our own in the house again, after nearly two decades of the joyful noise and chaos of a family. Lauren will be back, of course – she’ll still have a year to finish up at Local Businessman High School before heading off to college – but she will not be the same person she is now.
That’s kind of the point, after all.
So congratulations to Lauren, and may the world treat you well. We’ll be here for you when you return.
I’m proud of you.