Like a lot of parents, my sweet husband and I are empty nesters this summer.  Dillon (now 12 and full of pre-teen angst) is spending the summer with his mom in San Antonio.  He sees her at least twice a year, but sometimes not more than that, so his time with her is much-anticipated and the build-up to the last day with Dillon can sometimes be crazy.

As soon as the kid is handed off and we are on our way back home . . . we still have a hard time thinking about how to spend the summer, just the two of us, in a big old house with the cat, the dog and the constant need for yard work.

Many of you (who don't have those two months of solitude) might think we are nuts for having to plan how to spend the time.  There are always things to do around the house, projects that need starting or finishing and there is even time to do fun adult-only things.  That's all true, of course, but it's not ever the whole story.  The first week is horrible because we (and especially my sweet husband) miss the kid a lot.  We adjust to the new no-school routine.  We adjust to the quiet that is now everywhere in the house.  We adjust to the smells that are now absent when you walk in the door (ok, that part I'm just fine with not having for two months).

We also, and we've heard this from other summer empty nesters . . . have a little bit of guilt for anything that is planned that could be deemed 'fun' for the 12-year-old.  He asks a lot if we are going to do, "fun things without him" during the summer.  We, of course, say yes . . . because we love to do fun things in general.  But, when it comes down to it, it's usually MORE fun with the kid than without.

The good news, of course, is we love to be together as a family . . . and we love to be together as a couple . . . so we'll figure out how to fill the gaps till the kid gets home again.  In the meantime, we've decided there are five key ways to spend the time this summer:

1.  DON'T WASTE THE DAYLIGHT.  Now that we don't have the boom, boom, boom of explosions on the surround sound and the obligation to feed the kid at a certain hour, we can focus more time on small repairs and projects around the house.  We can also easily take the dog for a walk in the evening without worrying that someone is not doing his homework.  We'll dedicate time and days to a few key projects (like finally sealing the deck off the kitchen and painting the entry way).

2.  SPEND TIME TOGETHER WORKING ON THE KEY RELATIONSHIP.  The kid is part of our little family triangle, but for that to stand firm, the other two pieces have to be equally connected.  So we will spend time together and really being just US, not the THREE of us.  Sometimes when the stress of issues and school take over the family, you forget that the core relationships can be neglected.  With our anniversary just a few weeks away, we will dedicate some time to each other and remember why we chose to be a family in the first place.

3.  WE WON'T FEEL GUILTY.  Even when we do fun things . . . . because we want the kid to know that, while his presence usually makes things more fun in our home, we can still have a great time when he is not here.  I think it is important for kids to see their parents as fully-formed people who don't spend every moment obsessed with how the kid is doing, feeling, performing.

4.  WE'LL DO ADULT THINGS . . . AND THAT WILL MAKE US FEEL LIKE KIDS AGAIN.  Ok, this is still a PG blog, so I'll let you figure that one out.  I will say, though, that the freedom from having to be fully dressed in the house all the time is WONDERFUL.  Although I'm usually a little more free in that department than is my sweet husband.  Of course, apart from the obvious, there are other great things we have freedom to do (like watch a R-rated movie before 10pm, eat ice cream INSTEAD of dinner, watch marathons of shows like Game of Thrones that stretch from Friday night to Saturday morning and occasionally skip church to snuggle in bed on Sunday morning).

5. WE WILL TAKE ONE MINI VACATION THAT THE KID WOULD HAVE HATED.  Vacations are fun for kids . . . if you are doing things that are fun with kids.  LegoLand 2012 was an awesome experience but I doubt my sweet husband and I would have had much fun without Dillon.  So, we'll find one mini-vacation this summer that would appeal to us, and probably not be so exciting to a 12-year-old.  We have talked about a museum marathon, a cabin at the lake and no TV, a wine-tasting weekend and several others.  It's the perfect time for that thing you thought was so cool and you wish you could do but there isn't enough time and, anyway, you have a kid.

By the end of the summer, Dillon will be ready to start 8th grade, he will be 13 (OMG) and we will be ready to tackle full-on hormones, smelly socks, dirty bathrooms, half-done chores, booming video games and hours of discussions about girlfriends and how to not suck at relationships.  And hopefully, all of this will happen in the house with newly painted window trim . . .