Still, it can be borderline eerily quiet around the house without Second Daughter and Only Son. We homeschooled, so I am used to having them around all the time. I miss the extra hands to help me with housework, huddling around a board game, and bickering over TV shows and chore. Eldest Daughter and Youngest Daughter are excellent company and are touchingly doting, but dinner can be awfully quiet and short.
In between terms when when household attendance is complete, we regain some normalcy. Almost. During the first few days after coming home from their dorms, Second Daughter and Only Son would sleep, eat, and sleep some more. I know that they find time to bathe because when I surreptitiously sniff around them, they don't seem to smell.
Then they start being interactive. They notice the dog and the cat, and even feed them and take them to go potty. They notice their mom and their dad and their two other siblings.
Longer conversations start when grades pour in online. It probably says something about their mom that they feel the need to defend each grade. They talk about the impossibility of getting an A in organic chemistry, the immense boredom of Asian history, and the wrong decision to have chosen snorkeling for PE. To their credit, they have developed appreciation for diligent teachers who are passionate about their professions and gush over library facilities and in-school museums. Not too long ago, Second Daughter proudly told me that she was the only one who could argue with their theology professor because her high school theology was top-notch. I take that as a gesture of thanks to her tiger mom of a mom.
It's completely back to normal when chore-related arguments commence. Yup. The most hated chore is cleaning up after dinner. The most preferred chores are pet-related. We don't do chore charts anymore. Somehow, they know what should be done, and somehow, they have developed a system for deploying themselves around the house. Of course, the system involves some bickering. But you know what, it gets things done.
What we all very easily agree on is spending Christmas by the sea. We love the sea, the Philippines is an archipelago, and we detest obligatory and noisy parties, so it's an easy decision. When packing for the beach starts, there is genuine peace and harmony around the house. The kids help each other to look for those missing goggles, agree on whether to hire kayaks or a bigger boat, and figure out the shortest route to the resort. I sit on my rocking chair and congratulate myself for not doing so badly after all.
I know what will happen after we come home from the sea. Everyone will be grouchy from the long trip, and we will retreat to our rooms. After sufficient sleep, we will start to gush over the beach experience for the year, compare it with beach experiences of previous years, and start planning for the next one. In a funny way, the sea holds our family together.
Then the next school term will loom over us. The two college kids start with online enlistment of courses. Husband and I will hold our breath until the exact amount of tuition fees appear onscreen, at which point, Husband will be just about ready to lose his breath. Class schedules will be printed and forwarded to mom. Promises to study harder will be dispensed wholeheartedly or half-heartedly. Second Daughter and Only Son will start packing for the dorm.
Then it will be time for them to go.