a peek inside the fishbowl

31 Oct, 2017

Living with one less

Posted by andrea tomkins in: parenting

As you may know, our eldest daughter is in her first year of university. (You can read about that right here. Grab a tissue.) Our youngest is still at home. She jokes that she doesn’t have anyone to roll her eyes at when we are Being Total Parents, but I have a sneaking suspicion this isn’t really a joke. I don’t know how much she enjoys being the only child but she’s so busy with school and sports and activities and work and an active social life that I feel like we’re ships in the night sometimes.

A few of you have asked how life is going with one less kid in the house. Well, I’ll tell ya. The weird mash of joy and sadness I was feeling the week we were getting ready to send her off and in the days afterward has abated a little. I try not to think about it too much because it’s easier to pretend the feeling is not there, and that it’s no big deal, like a blister or a paper cut. Mind over matter, right?

Sometimes the afternoon sun falls just so and I am reminded that the kids will be home from school soon. Hot on the heels of THAT thought I suddenly remember that one of them isn’t coming home today. The other day a neighbour stopped me and exclaimed, hey, I saw your daughter just now. To which I replied, which one? I actually forgot we didn’t have two kids at home. What else? I was making dinner the other day and caught myself planning four portions. I have pulled four plates out of the cupboard.

I don’t buy juice anymore because there is no one to drink it. The milk lasts a lot longer, too.

The blessing in all of this is technology. When I was away at school, long distance calls were expensive and they were few and far between. Today, of course, there is the INTERNET and everything that comes with it. We pay nothing for a long distance call. I can see the photos she posts, easily pass along an article that made me think of her, or send her a quick text or a snapshot. There’s also Facetime. Video chat is so easy and so ordinary now but when I was in high school it was like something out of the Jetsons. Video chat is like phone calls, but miles better. If there was a problem it would be written all over her face. Having this degree of communication is wonderful, for everyone.

Video chat

My biggest concerns were assuaged back in September. She made good friends and is eating well and enjoying (most of) her classes. Her residence room is great and her can mate (that’s the term for the person she shares a bathroom with) is a very nice young woman. The eldest has been pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone – in a good way – and tackling adult things like grocery shopping, banking, the admin side of university studies, and doing it successfully on her own. Plus, she’s having fun. This is all I really wanted. (Sidebar: What would we have done if she hated university? I don’t want to jinx things but this is something I’ve been asking myself. What if she hated school? Hated her floor-mates or her classes? What would we have done? Gah.)

The things that are consoling me right now are as follows (in no particular order):

  • She’s coming home for Christmas.
  • She isn’t actually that far, geographically speaking. In fact, we snuck over to Kingston the weekend before last to take her out to dinner.
  • She is happy.
  • Care packages. (Sent from us to her in Kingston, just so we’re clear.)

The last package I pulled together included a box of caramels, fun socks from Mrs. Tiggy Winkles, and a party game. (Oh, and her high school philosophy notes.) I have another one on the go which I’ll be sending soon. There’s something about compiling the items, writing a note, wrapping it all up, and standing in line at the post office that I find peaceful and healing. The process is like a bandaid for my heart, in a way. Someday it will get easier, I’m sure.

6 Responses to "Living with one less"

1 | Jennifer Jilke

November 1st, 2017 at 3:49 pm


I remember that feeling! When we dropped my daughter of at university first year, I was fine. It was in residence.
The next year, I was divorced, and my sons and I slept over in her bungalow, which 6 of them were renting. I bawled when we left the next morning. It was the hardest when I was a single mom.

2 | Ginger

November 2nd, 2017 at 4:04 pm


I started reading your blog before my boys were born. They turned 9 this summer. Which means your girls were littles when I first started reading here.

This unnerves me a bit.

We have tiny little envelopes that hang across our mantel each December because of your 25 Days of Christmas that you blogged about.

The last couple of years I have wondered when you stopped putting up those envelopes and stopped planning advent activities for your girls. I dread the year that my boys tell me I don’t need to do it anymore and I secretly hope they will just humor me until they too leave home. For now they ask daily if it is almost time for advent. They try to trick me into telling them the surprises I have in store. They bring up past years fondly and we laugh together. They look forward to the familiar and are excited by the prospect of the new. These memories are priceless for all of us!

I am sure that I have thanked you in the past for sharing your life here with us readers, but I am saying it again. My family has directly benefited from your sharing and I consider you my friend even though I have never seen you face-to-face!

I know my turn for an empty house will come all too soon. And the reality is that my twin boys will most likely leave together…leaving no lone sibling behind. But your sharing as you move through this next stage will linger in my mind I am sure.

This summer the boys want to travel to New York for vacation and we are going to swing up to see Niagara Falls. I already pulled out the map to see how close we would be to your area and found out not that close! But I am getting us all passports and I plan for us to at least step in to Canada! I will say Hi as I cross the border! :)

3 | andrea tomkins

November 4th, 2017 at 8:51 am


Jennifer: it can hit at any moment! That’s the worst part.

Ginger: This blogging thing is funny, isn’t it, how people so far away – and who have never met – can have an impact. For the record I totally remember your being pregnant and having the boys! And here we are. (You haven’t aged a bit, btw.)

I love that you guys are crazy about 25 Days. We did it for years. Sometimes I only did 12 days because that’s all I had the energy for. I’m not sure when we stopped. I think I just got tired. That being said, we still did most of those things, but they came along organically through the month of December. The other thing is that as kids get older they become more independent. It’s tougher to plan family events around sports, boyfriends, school activities etc.

It’s easier to see the stages of parenting – and how short they actually are – when you look back at your life as a parent, isn’t it? Sigh. Every stage has its challenges and every one is precious in its own way. The eldest once asked me if I missed the days when she was a baby. The answer, of course, is yes and no. Yes, I miss the cute baby, no, I don’t miss the diapers and the feeling of exhaustion that came with being the mother of a baby. You know what I’m really glad I did? I’m glad I blogged this whole crazy ride. I don’t look back through my archives very often, but it’s all THERE… and that’s worth something… to me, and to them. (And the same is true for you too, Ginger, because you wrote it all too.)

When and where will you be in New York? Maybe I’ll swing down there… :) :)

4 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive A peek inside a care package for our university student - a peek inside the fishbowl

November 16th, 2017 at 3:45 pm


[…] my post about life with one less kid around the house I mentioned that I have found a tiny bit solace in sending care packages to the eldest while […]

5 | Allison

November 17th, 2017 at 10:37 pm


What!!??!! How is your daughter in university?!! That just cannot be!!! So glad to hear she is adjusting well and having fun and enjoying her classes – you are right, that’s all you can ask for! Cheers to new stages and adventures for all of you!!

6 | andrea tomkins

November 18th, 2017 at 8:12 am


I KNOW. It’s crazy that we are now the parents of an adult. I can hardly believe it myself most days! :)

comment form:


Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Jennifer Jilks: I don't have a bucket list. I sorta live day to day!
  • Aj: Each peach, Everybody puts two feet in, king counter will say the following rhyme as they count around the circle: "Each peach pear plum out goes
  • Jenn Jilks: That is really exciting! Break a leg!
  • fun88: I was excited to discover this page. I want to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also
  • Gretchen Humphrey: I had a beautiful bee& birdbath filled with a solar fountain and dozens of antique marbles that were suddenly disappearing. At first I thought my
  • Jinjer: I am sobbing reading this post. And you're right, companion is not enough. Little furry treasured gifts that they are. Thanks for sharing cutie-pi
  • Karen: Dear Andrea, Mark and your daughters I am so very sad for your family xxx Piper was/is my favourite Instagram post. You shared with us so intimately

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

Still calling it Twitter