Janine Talbot

Janine Talbot

Around 6:30 p.m. last Tuesday, Spouse and I both received a text from Second Born with two very important words.

“In Maine!”

I breathed a sigh of relief and knew she would be walking in the door within the hour. We knew she would be exhausted after the long-distance drive to enjoy a long weekend with college friends, so we stuck to an easy “How was the weekend?” conversation while eating dinner together. After a long, hot shower she was done for the day and ready to crash. We’d get details later.

For the past four years, Spouse and I have maneuvered the empty nest with a fair amount of success. I had gotten pretty good at being oblivious to what went on with either daughter, especially since one is married and living a flight away and one was (at the time) a nine-hour drive away. But when they come back, you’re more aware of what they’re up to, which makes you curious… in a mom-curious sort of way.

Fortunately for me, Spouse is my partner in crime and curiosity. Whenever I’m worried that I’m giving off nagging vibes, I enlist him to help by asking the questions I can’t ask.

For instance, when Second Born and Best Friend were about to begin their long drive home and wintry weather chose to make its debut that same day, I was more than curious about their driving status… but I couldn’t ask because I had already exchanged benign text messages earlier with our kid. There was only one way around asking but not asking. I called on Spouse to do my dirty work. He sent a short message asking our youngest her travel status, minus the heart and smiley face I would have included. She replied to his text almost immediately, including me in, to let us both know they were just getting on the road. I can almost guarantee she didn’t roll her eyes when she saw his message, as she likely would have with mine. There’s a subtle difference between Too-Much- Mom and Just-Checking-Dad.

It’s not just me that plays this parenting game. You-know-who was doing his own indirect quizzing by checking to see if I had heard from the girls while they were on their way to Pennsylvania that Friday. It has not escaped me that I wasn’t able to do this while she was wandering around Hungary and various other countries during her study abroad, and I was definitely not in the loop during her four-year college stay. I got used to that, but having her back here (temporarily, she regularly reminds us) means automatically having more knowledge of her activities.

The thing is, we don’t live in a huge dwelling where you might not realize anyone else is home because they’re way down at the other end of the house. We don’t have an “other end” of the house. We live in a house where you can feel the draft from the far (and I use the term loosely) bedroom when the kitchen door is open. You’re bound to know what everyone is doing, and we happen to be extremely lucky that the three of us get along – most of the time.

Spouse and I grew up very differently. His folks had a vague idea of what was going on in his everyday life. Mine wanted a daily play-by-play. We try not to be too “parental” at this point in Second Born’s life. This week she and I will be baking cookies for our church fair. It’s a great opportunity for some time together without that parental tone – until I have to cut her off from eating all the chocolate chips.

Janine Talbot resides in southern Maine with her husband of 30-something years, their youngest daughter until she gets a better offer, and two-and-a-half cats. She can be reached at [email protected]

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