The noise of a family under one roof is a fleeting symphony

The sounds of teenagers doing stuff for themselves at 11:14 p.m. prompts reflections on the past and future.

They might be noisy after dark, but having both teenagers live at home is special. (Jennifer Bardsley)

They might be noisy after dark, but having both teenagers live at home is special. (Jennifer Bardsley)

The other night I rested my head on my pillow, pulled the covers up nice and snug, closed my eyes and heard the washing machine start. Groaning, I looked at the clock. It was 11:14 p.m.

“At least our teenagers do their own laundry,” my husband mumbled.

“I bet this is payback for me vacuuming the hallway at 10:45 a.m.,” I said.

“Ridiculously early,” he said with a chuckle. “How dare you?”

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to fall asleep, despise the rollicking noise of our HE machine on the other side of the wall. A few seconds later, the dryer slammed shut and turned on. Now it was doubly hard to sleep.

In my restless state, I thought about washing machines. When my son was a baby, he loved them. One of his favorite things to do was sit on top of the washer and play with the knobs. Now he had turned 18. How did that happen? I don’t remember him growing up overnight.

But it wasn’t just about washing machines. It was about all of the things that I used to do for him — prepare food, read books, drive to school, organize extracurriculars — that were now in the past. When he was little, my son needed me for pretty much everything. Now he just needs me for food and health insurance.

That night, while I tried to fall asleep, I heard my daughter rattling around in the kitchen. She packs gourmet school lunches for herself and sometimes her brother. Chopped salad, avocado toast, hummus and carrot sticks; each Tupperware is a thing of beauty. She doesn’t always clean up after herself though.

“How much you want to bet there will be a dirty cutting board next to the kitchen sink tomorrow morning?” my husband asked.

“With an apple core on top and tablespoon coated with peanut butter,” I added. My days of packing lunch bags were gone. Now I’m just the person who cleans up the mess.

I sighed and squished my face against the pillow. This new phase of parenting was bittersweet. On the one hand, it was the culmination of everything my husband and I had worked hard to accomplish since the moment we brought our babies home from the hospital. Our kids were becoming independent. They were creeping towards the magic moment where they could survive completely on their own. On the other hand, it meant that the tight-knit family unit of the four of us, that we’d relished for so long, was phasing away. Next September our son would go off to college and we’d be down to three. Boy, the house would be quiet.

But right now, the soundtrack of our life was playing outside my bedroom door. Instead of being frustrated by the disruption to my sleep, I changed my thinking. Quieter days are coming, but I’m not ready for them just yet.

Special note to readers: I have adored writing for you these past 11 years. Keep an eye out next week for my final column. You can still find me online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as @JenniferBardsleyAuthor. My books are available at your local library.

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