There is nothing like having your children not only through college, but gainfully employed.
When you sign on as a parent, there is no end in sight. That someday your day-to-day responsibilities will end is not even on your radar. On Facebook, I see "kids" who grew up with mine posting pictures of their babies and young children. They ask for advice from the Facebook universe on potty training and getting toddlers to go to bed. They post pictures of their friends' babies, too, like one adorable shot recently that showed a little girl going potty on a training seat pretend nursing what looked to be a little stuffed lamb named Lenny.
I remember that time of life. It did seem like it would never end. So did grade school. And high school. And college.
Then suddenly, I'm coming home to an empty house. Closets are still full of high school memorabilia and prom dresses, musical costumes and schoolbooks, ancient video games and soccer balls wrapped in cellophane from senior night. While married, both of my kids are still renting apartments so they don't want to sort through and take all their things yet.
Meanwhile, I'm looking around and seeing nothing but stuff and thinking I don't want to be that old lady someday with all kinds of junk I haven't used in years taking up space I no longer need.
But this gainful employment thing? That's the cherry on the sundae. It makes all the checks for college rent and campus parking tickets and overdrawn checking accounts and textbooks seem worth it.
I remember getting a call from my daughter just a few weeks into her first year of teaching two years ago. She could barely contain herself. It was her first payday, and all she could gush was, "There's a comma in my bank statement!"
By that time, there may not have been a comma in mine. College does that to a parent.
I used to wonder what I'd do with all that money that was going to soccer travel and voice lessons in high school, then the miscellaneous and never-ending college expenses. Thanks to the economy and some less-than-strategic business moves, I'm not going to know the answer to that anytime soon.
I look forward to the time that I do, though. And in the meantime, there is great pleasure and peace in knowing that my children have arrived at commas.
Not that our job as parents is ever really done. We still suffer when they do, worry when there's reason to (or not) and experience joy at their accomplishments. In that way, we're pretty much the same as the parents with the picture of the little girl on the potty chair.
Either way, we're proud.
Kathy Gibbons can be reached care of the Record-Eagle or at email@example.com.