We watch them go from tentative toddlers to brave explorers. As years pass, parents witness their children defiantly wandering about town with their friends and eventually confidently seeking their life's path in the world.
In their riotous departure, grown children vacate their bedrooms, abandon family rooms and leave the front porches to seek their fame and fortune.
No longer are their books spilled on the kitchen table or their clothes carelessly strewn across the bedroom floor. Parents no longer provide taxi service to a car filled with their boisterous friends, no longer hear music thundering from their rooms and no longer wait for the sound of a key turning in the door before allowing themselves to fall asleep.
Nearly 80 million baby boomers are entering their "empty nest" years. They are ready to enjoy their newfound freedom and treat themselves to long-delayed luxuries. The once-scarce resources of time and money ease a bit, allowing desired transformations to their lifestyle and home.
Same home, new look
As children leave home, many parents redefine their priorities. In the process, they rethink their home plans.
"Empty nesters enjoy entertaining at home and are beautifying their surroundings more than ever before," said Jackie Hirschhaut, vice president of the American Furniture Manufacturers Assn.
While 25 percent of empty nesters buy new homes Â either larger, smaller or a vacation getaway Â most stay put. One out of four empty nesters renovate their current homes, including upgrades to furniture considered too impractical while the children were growing up.
Many decide to remodel entire rooms. Basements become workshops. The spare room becomes an office or a sewing or hobby room. The second bath becomes a tastefully decorated guest bath.
When it comes to renovation, new living room furniture is first on the list, followed by a makeover of Junior's old room, which is likely to become a guest room.
Last summer the furniture association asked more than 1,000 empty nesters: "What would you do with an extra room in your house?" The top five transformations:
l library or reading room.
l hobby studio.
l guest room.
l home theater.
l home office.
In addition, empty nesters identified the sunroom and recreational room as highly desired.
However, even though the rock star posters and pop art come off the wall of a grown child's now-empty room, parents don't say goodbye to their children altogether.
"Oftentimes, parents will accessorize renovated rooms with family mementos, photos, diplomas or other sentimental treasures," Hirschhaut said.
From spare to spectacular
To refeather an empty nest, consider these tips when converting that spare room:
l Guest rooms offer great ways to express personal style; have fun decorating in a new style or color. Add a sleeper sofa or futon to increase the room's flexibility. Remember, guests should be comfortable when they visit. Include a seating bench or chair, a small dresser or armoire, a mirror, a table lamp and clock.
l Library or reading rooms should be cozy and relaxing. Have plenty of comfortable chairs, pillows, bookshelves, end tables and a coffee table. Reading lamps, mood lighting, plants and other decorative accessories add to the room's charm.
l Hobby rooms will vary depending on function. Most likely, it will include a well-lit work space and storage areas that keep supplies neatly tucked away yet handy. If the room is to be used as a game room, be sure to have plenty of chairs for the "players" and a large playing table. Adding a stereo, radio or television is also a great idea.
l Home offices, ideally, are out of earshot of noise. Of course, with an empty nest, noise is not nearly the problem it used to be. The home office can be outfitted with a simple workstation that is nothing more than a desktop or it may feature an elaborate, elegant desk with matching desk sets. File cabinets, a phone and a computer round out the space. Splurge on an ergonomic chair for comfort.
Lastly, enjoy your empty nest with all its freedoms and extra space after your children leave home. Besides, it may not be too long before it's filled again Â with the grandchildren.
Â Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and home and garden writer for the Journal-World.