Annie Lane: After the kids have flown the coop

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, August 4, 2021

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Dear Annie: I am a 49-year-old father of twins, a boy and girl. They are 18 and will be headed for college soon, and I am starting to get pretty worried about the nest’s being empty once they depart.

I love my wife. Our marriage has been rocky at times, but we’ve stayed together. There’s been no infidelity or anything major. We’ve just had normal couple issues about quality time spent together and household annoyances, such as not emptying the dishwasher and leaving stubble around the sink in the bathroom.

For the past 18 years, the kids have been our focus. In a few months, that focus moves out.

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I am worried about myself. These days, when I come home from work, I check in with the kids. I help with homework. I go to their basketball games. After they leave, I will have nothing to do.

I am worried about my wife, too. Her life is these kids. She cooks for them. She drives for them (which is shocking, considering they both have their driver’s licenses). They are her world, and that will be gone after they leave.

Yes, I am looking forward to spending more time with my wife, but there are only so many episodes of ‘House of Cards’ we can watch. Is there anything I can do to prepare for this departure?

— Deserted Dad

Dear Deserted: Change can be a wonderful thing. It can also be terrifying, disorienting and sad. The key is to embrace it.

Your kids will no longer depend on you the way they once did, but this means you can now have a relationship with them more akin to friendship. The more mature they become the more they’ll appreciate you and their mom. And they’ll still need plenty of help as they navigate the world of adulthood.

You and your wife can use this stage to behave like newlyweds again. Go out on more dates. Relearn what it’s like to have free time. Most importantly, talk about the transition you’re both going through, as you are in a perfect position to understand and support each other. The nest isn’t totally empty as long as you’ve got each other. (Netflix doesn’t hurt.)

• • •

Dear Annie: I am a 14-year-old girl. I have known ‘Mia’ since the third grade, when we instantly became the best of friends. Unfortunately, things have not been great with us lately because Mia spends so much time on social media. She has been constantly ‘chatting’ with different people, who are complete strangers, over the internet. She has even met up with some of these people in person. I am worried that she may be putting herself in danger. What is so sad is that she has a messed-up family, and nobody is supervising her when it comes to social media.

I am nervous that she will send naked pictures of herself or get lured into prostitution or something else terrible because she does not have good judgment and is not making smart choices. What should I do? Please help.

— Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned: Your worries are 100 percent justified. It’s not just that Mia may put herself in further danger; she already is putting herself in danger by talking to strangers online and even meeting up with them in person unsupervised. You need to enlist the help of your mom and dad. They can talk to Mia’s parents or other adults in her life who will look out for her best interests, such as a guidance counselor.

Prepare yourself for the fact that Mia will be angry with you. But her safety is paramount, and she’s left you with no choice. You will look back on this and be glad you did the right thing. You are an amazing friend, and Mia is lucky to have you in her life.

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