Shift Happens

Musings on the mind and the perennial capacity for change

Saying Goodbye to the Family Home

After 24 yrs what do you take with you having raised 3 kids and all their stuff

24 Years and counting, we have lived in the same home. We raised our three kids, our 4 dogs, many fish have been flushed, and we are leaving. My youngest is off to college and the smart move is to sell a large home, large taxes, say goodbye to our lovely gardener and pool guy and downsize. It is just a home and just stuff, I try to tell myself. But I am heart-broken. I am stuck in a glue trap and cannot pack. What comes with us and what goes to Good Will? Do the kids really want their original favorite toy or am I the only one holding onto those memories? School T-shirts, plastic trophies, their annual yearbooks, letters from early flames, birthday cards, drawings . . . it is breaking my heart to make those decisions. I want it all yet there will be no place to put it. My kids are grown and creating their own mementos. I need to understand that. And it was just yesterday – or make that 40 years ago that my mother and mother-in-law both sent us their wedding China. Now it’s packed up waiting for my daughters to have their own homes and desire the use of beautiful belongings. Right now they are still in the group Chili phase of life and china and delicate belongings have no place in their lives. I understand that this is just one more passage I have to go through but it signals growing older, which I swore I would never do, and making financial decisions that I never wanted to have to make. I feel vibrant and full of ideas and like I just got launched. Yet I have aged out of certain parts of my professional life and have to face up to that. Fortunately I was wise enough to prepare for that inevitability and secured a degree which has no age attached to it. In fact I have found that clients much prefer a therapist who has a little history attached to the professional skills. I do love my new work and do miss my old work. Change is hard.

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I rely upon the slogan “Shift Happens” and always tell my clients that change is just a part of life. Look at it like a new chapter. You turn the page and see what’s coming up next. So tonight is the end of the glue trap. I will start the unmerciful packing process, the decision making, and think of all the many things I still want to do professionally and personally. The almost empty nest will really be empty in just a few months telling me I clearly do not want to rattle around an empty house. So I’ll fill up a smaller one and hope that the spare room is not often empty; that the kids will want to visit and be doted upon, get their favorite foods, get their laundry done and just let us take care of them for a little bit. That’s all I can ask. If we have done our job correctly, having independent children that can take care of themselves is a great reward for the efforts. Having children that want to visit is an even greater reward. So yes, I will miss my house and hear phantom noises of laughter and drums, piano and violin, fighting and playing and babies crying out and teenagers acting out. And I will be sad. But like that good book, the next chapter can be better than the one before and I will look forward to sharing the pages with my now adult children in our new home.

 

 

Susan Winston, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a television producer and writer in Los Angeles.

 

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