Myra prepares for the last bird to leave the nest

May 18, 2009 at 12:18 a.m.
Updated May 19, 2009 at 12:19 a.m.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

In less than one week, my life will change forever. I knew this day would come.

My last child is graduating from high school. I had heard friends say, "Cherish your children. These days won't last forever," and "You blink and they have grown up."

All of the statements are true. It seems like only yesterday I was filling baby bottles and changing diapers. Now I have three kids who are really adults, in both size and their desire for independence.

Spencer is our last child living full time at home. He is 18, and in less than a week, he will graduate from St. Joseph High School.

At the end of this summer, he will join our other two kids, Miles and Hannah, at Baylor University in Waco, leaving me with an empty nest.

I suppose I should be comforted by the fact that all three kids will be together in one place, but that place is four hours from me if I travel the speed limit.

In relation to their desire to have their own lives, I think they find some comfort in the fact that I am only four hours away.

Spencer is the baby of our family. Being born last is somewhat of a cherished position in most families, since it usually means the last child gets the parents undivided attention.

Sometimes this results in the baby being spoiled by the parents. Spencer's sister and brother probably think he is spoiled and gets to do things they never got to do, but in reality we have raised all of our children the same ... only that by the time we got around to raising the last child we had lost some interest in the child rearing process.

We figured that he had watched the other two being raised, knew the general rules and could guess what things we were flexible on and those things we weren't.

Spencer is a smart kid and seems to have a desire to please us. He is fairly easy going, so if we told him not to do something he was good to obey and not complain much.

But really, he has a good heart, generally makes wise choices, is respectful to others, and is self motivated to study and be industrious, so he has been a joy to be with for these last 18 years. That is why I will be a little sad to see him go.

I have had some practice in empty nesting. Miles left home four years ago and Hannah has been away for three, so Spencer has been our only child at home for three years.

When he was younger, I taught him to do lots of the basic things he would need to be able to do in life. I instructed him to tie his shoes, make his bed, wash his clothes, drive a car (actually Taylor taught the driving lessons, I don't have such nerves of steel), put his napkin in his lap when he was eating, and say please and thank you.

I taught him to do these things so when the time came, he could venture out into the world equipped to handle life without me. But now that the time has come, I am not sure if I am ready for him to leave.

Taylor and I have enjoyed the last several years watching Spencer mature into a great young man. Perhaps the most drastic change occurred last summer when he held his first real summer job. He had been a life guard the summer before and worked about 20 hours per week at most.

So last summer, we thought it would be an awakening to life in the real world if he did some genuine manual labor instead of sitting beneath a stripped umbrella watching girls in bikinis frolic in a swimming pool. Taylor talked to some friends of ours who had a summer position available at their business. The job involved refurbishing chemical tanks.

Taylor and I were somewhat nervous, not knowing if Spencer would prove to be a good worker or not. We assured the owners that he was not a charity case, and that if he needed to be fired, then so be it. He would have to make it on his own.

Spencer interviewed for the job and got it. He was so proud when he came home to say he had been hired. He lamented that he was going to have to be at work at 7 in the morning and work until 5:30 p.m. and even work some Saturdays.

Taylor reminded him he would make lots of money, hoping that would console him. We bought him the necessary gear; steel-toe boots, long sleeve work shirts and Wrangler jeans, and he was ready to enter the work force.

The change in Spencer occurred over several weeks. It was difficult for him at first, but he endured. In fact, I think he even liked the hard work. Maybe he was proving to himself that he was a man and was up to the task.

Looking back, I think his co-workers had the greatest influence on him. They were a bunch of good guys. He learned a great deal about their lives, families and dreams while working side-by-side with them.

Spencer came to appreciate the value of a dollar, and how difficult it is to make a living. I will be forever grateful for that summer of experience for him.

Once the summer ended and he returned to school for his senior year, he had changed. He was more diligent in his studies and athletic endeavors. That real-world experience had matured him.

Graduation and leaving the confines of home will mark the end of a chapter in his book of life. That is life. It moves forward, on to new pages, new stories, new adventures and new people. He won't be able to read ahead. He'll flip the pages, one by one, and live it as each of us do. He might call to ask us what certain paragraphs mean.

Our books will intersect in parts, but less so now, until finally, it will be mostly about him and his family. And we won't read to him anymore because it is now his story.

When our kids were little I used to bake breadsticks, which spelled out their names. I would mold the dough into letters. They found this amusing and delicious. Melted peanut butter made a great breakfast dip for the breadsticks. Refrigerated bread dough can be used to make this breakfast treat easy for hurried mornings.

Chocolate chip pancakes have also been a family favorite in our home. I started out making them for Miles and when he left for college, Spencer began requesting the chocolaty pancakes. Just add chocolate chips to the batter as they are cooking.

Hopefully one day our children will be making these treats for my grandchildren.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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