Headmaster’s Thoughts – April 2008

At about this time of the year, parents of seniors begin to get concerned about “empty nest syndrome.” With that in mind, I want to give you some taste of the future. One day you probably will be grandparents and your empty family home may become quite full again. I have just had a few months of it since our son and his wife came to live with us along with their two-year-old daughter, their dog, their cat and their parrot, while they were having their second child at New York Hospital. Gore Vidal famously said that we should not have children, just grandchildren. After these two months, I disagree.

How did we do it when we had babies? My wife and I had three children in less than three years. (We had twins when our son was two years and nine months old.) Now that I will be 64 this month (I know, you are all saying “So old!” And yes, I do have the Beatles song asking if you will still love me, ringing in my ears.), I find that I have the energy I had when I was 30, but only for about seven hours. Then I try and take a nap (I like the words “power nap,” but I think that is aggrandizing a weakness.) and then I am good to go for another seven hours. But dealing with a two year old and a six week old knocks the heck out of me, and I start flagging very quickly. The two year old, who of course is adorable, has the energy of the Energizer Bunny. She runs, laughs, cries, poops, eats, and plays (not necessarily in that order) non stop. One moment she is crying and the next instant laughing. She has no fear (but I make up for that in fearing for her recklessness), flirts outrageously with strangers, and fights (quite vocally) against the concept of wearing gloves.

My daughter-in-law is simultaneously nursing her newborn (who she carries in a sling,) and supervising this two year old whirling dervish. My son is remarkably good as a father and has taken time off from his veterinary practice to help out. And still I feel wrung out at the end of the day. How did we do it?

The truth is that I don’t quite remember. There is a blank time in my memory from when our children were this age. Maybe it is like a really bad time at the dentist: the mind blocks out the recollection to protect one’s sanity. I am sure we were there (I mean, we must have been), but just as my children cannot remember anything before they were three, I remember them being actually born and then the next memory of them is also at about three when they could walk and talk. I can’t remember potty training or helping them to walk, but they are well toilet trained now and walk with considerable ability.

For the record, the twins are now 32 and my son is 35. One of my twin daughters is pregnant with her second and her first is now just fourteen months old. This means four grandchildren in less than three years.

So back to those parents of seniors who are lamenting that their children are leaving for college so soon. Let me warn you that they come back with grandchildren to delight and exhaust you. Sometimes, if only briefly, they all come back to live with you. Be careful what you wish for.

Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org 

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