Kids Are Grown,

Now What?


Transcript – Episode 39 – A Guy’s Perspective Of The Empty Nest – With Jon Magnuson

Alice Agnello: Hey Jon, thanks again for agreeing to be on the podcast. I really appreciate it.

Jon Magnuson: Oh, thanks for having me. It's my pleasure.

Alice Agnello: So tell me about your family and like where you are right now with the empty nest.

Jon Magnuson: Yeah, we're in that transition time that no one really ever plans for, or at least you can't prepare for. We've got two kids. One is a 16 and a junior here still at home. And then we have our 19 year old who is out in Arizona, his first year of college. He moved out there. We moved him out in August, and I'm not sure we're over it yet because we miss him dearly. So he's been back for Thanksgiving and some other holidays, but we kind of want to see him more often than we probably should. We're not really letting go of the reins per se.

Alice Agnello: So when you say that, what do you think you could do less or more of to let him go?

Jon Magnuson: Well, I don't want to let him go. I think that's the deal. I know am not supposed to want to stop parenting, and I'm not a helicopter parent. But my kids are there in their teenage years, and I've always had a nice relationship with them, but they are my little buddies. And we've just enjoyed our time together. And so I cherish those moments. And you know, anybody listening out there, and you probably know this from experience yourself, is that you take for granted sitting around the dinner table with your entire family. And so when you get a chance to do that at a holiday or a birthday or whatever reason, man, you just want to stop time. And we probably, as a family, ate five to six times a week with everybody at the table at once, and thought that was a pretty cool thing. But it became a little monotonous or mundane and maybe didn't take the advantages, and been talking to some of my friends now I'm like, “Oh, I can't wait to have dinner with my two sons at the table with us.”

And we'll talk about anything from how goofy the dog is to what movie we want to see to the music dad plays all the time and made them sick of, to whatever. It doesn't matter. We're just happy to… And it's a one time I don't eat fast, Alice Agnello. I'm a fast eater and I want seconds and I'm done. I want out of there to go do something. I want to slow it down and talk and my food gets cold because I don't want that meal to end. And I don't know if other parents are that way. Tell me your thoughts because I tell you, it's definitely something we didn't plan for.

Alice Agnello: It's definitely been an adjustment because my youngest son is back in the house again. But sometimes I don't see him. Like I know he's here, I know he's been here, but he's gone because I'll be out and then he comes home, and he's working. He goes to school. It's an adjustment. But there will be, as you said, there's these little moments that I want to stop time, and I think to myself, “Oh this is what I'm going to miss.” So when he comes in from school and he gives me a hug, just I didn't ask for it. I didn't say anything. He just comes in of his own volition and just gives me a hug. It's my dad's birthday today. And he called me and he said, “Should I go by to grandpa's house and say something?” I said, “Yeah, that would be great.” Because my dad's hard of hearing on the phone.

And he's like, “Should I go get him orange Tic Tacs?” Because that's what they remember as kids. And I was like sitting there thinking, “Oh my God, I did such a good job.” My son is actually thinking of someone else and how he could go buy him a gift before he went and saw him. And I'm just like, “Oh I want to hold,” as you said, “I want to hold onto that and not let it go.” But I know at the same time he is itching to move out of the house. He knows that he's got to do one more semester at the junior college and then he is ready to go back and get out and plan. He's showing me places that he wants to move, when he goes to Richmond next semester. And he's already making plans. I'm like, “No you can't rent that place now. You have to wait until August to try and do that.” So I understand where you're coming from.

So your eldest moved what? Like in August? And then has only been back how many… How many times would be like actually physically seen him since then?

Jon Magnuson: Well see, that's the tough part about not wanting to be away too much from him. I've actually traveled to Phoenix where he's at several times. I had a little business but made it work so I could see him. And my wife Nicole, his mom has also traveled out there when I was on business so we could see him. I think we went to dinner one night and then Hubbard around and waited for his shift to end so we could have a late lunch before we actually got in the car and drove home six hours. And I'm like, “Oh, I'm so tired.” And she's like, “I know, don't worry. I'll drive all the way home. We got to see Keeto.” So his name is Keaton and we call him Keeto sometimes. So we waited around and then hit rush hour traffic to have a late lunch with our son, and it was perfect. It was perfect. And so it's only time. And she said she'd drive and I let her drive because I was tired. I think I'd pulled not on all nighter, but I think I worked so many hours on this event I was working in Phoenix. I had back to back three and four hours of sleep nights and I was just tired from being on my feet. And she's like, “Don't worry, I got it.” So she did.

And it's because she wanted to see, she wanted to have that time together. We didn't do anything fancy. We just went for a pizza, but it was just time with our son. And yes, we are having those moments too, like you mentioned, where they're growing up and thinking of others first and you're not having to tell them everything to do, and just pitching in, and they're good little people. So that part, I think, you and I can probably check the box. We've done pretty good there. There's still work to be done there, but a nice little job for us. Kudos to Alice and Jon. We got that part done now. I'm not sure how I'm getting over… I actually haven't answered your question.

But the question was, how many times have you seen him? I have my 50th birthday, so she surprised me and flew him home, and he came walking around the corner on a Saturday. So that was great. And we've been to Phoenix a couple times, and he's been here two or three times. So it actually… We've seen him a lot more than a lot of parents do. But here's the deal, he's sick. He's got the flu right now. He has been down for probably 36 hours. It's finals week in college. And last night we were both just almost nauseous because we didn't know what to do here, whether it's an urgent care, a CVS minute clinic. And so we're like, “How can we make him go get this? What does he take in? Is a DayQuil? Do we need to tell them what to go get? How can he feel better for his finals that he had today and also still be on the mend?”

And normally we'd help him, and now we feel sort of helpless because he, first of all, one he's a guy. We don't go to the doctor. Two, he just wants to see just being miserable and sleep it off and then try and do what he can do. But he's been struggling, and we just feel bad that we're not there. So yeah, it's tough letting go here.

Alice Agnello: What do you think has been the toughest part to let go for you?

Jon Magnuson: For me personally, the fact that I can't protect him. And I'm not too proud or too ashamed or embarrassed to say that the week or so he was gone, the first week, even though I was texting with him often and told him I love him and proud of him, we were crying in our bed. I was tearing up and I said, “The biggest thing is that I can't protect him.” Like I liked the kids under my house. Sure they'd be gone with their friends. They might be out late, but I always felt like they were close enough where I'm the big bear and I can protect the Cubs.

Jon Magnuson: And my sons are as big as me. I'm a 6'4, 220 pound guy. And they're big boys. They're men. They're just young men. And so they don't need protection in that resort. It's just more like I'm in charge, and I have the decision power, and I'm supposed to know most of the answers. And I think that's the toughest thing for me is that I'm going to have to watch them go out and make a few mistakes. Things I wish I could say, “Don't do that.” But you know they need to do that. And so I think I just have to come to grips with that.

Alice Agnello: I think that is one of the hardest things to learn as a parent is to, as you said, you're supposed to protect them, but now they are out in the world, and there is nothing you can do about it other than when your child comes back to you to ask questions like he is when he's sick. I remember when my first son was sick at college for the first time and I'm like, “Okay, where's the urgent care? You need to go there, you need to go get an appointment. How do you do that? These are the things that you need to do in order to get better.” And it's so frustrating. Either A, they don't do it, or B, you're not there to hand-hold to then go get the medicine. Go get the chicken soup, go get all the things that you would normally do. Because when I'm sick, I just want someone else to take care of me, you know? And so I want to take care of somebody else too. And my child is sick, so difficult.

Jon Magnuson: Very difficult. He has agreed to do Teladoc. So Teladoc is where you get on the computer, they'll diagnose you and maybe write you the prescription without having to go find urgent care and spend two hours. He's like, “I don't have the time right now.” So yeah, while he studies, he's waiting for the Teladoc on his computer. And we've actually had a little success with that ourselves. So we'll see how that turns out. But I think it's just the flu might have to run its course. But I could just tell I was chewing Nicole up bad last night. We started watching a Netflix series show and I'm like, “I know that this whole thing with Keaton sickness is killing.” She's like, “Ah, it's killing me.” I could just tell. I'm like, “Well let's watch the show.” And then she's like, “Ah, my baby's sick.” And it's like, he's not a baby. 220 pounds. But he is. He's our first born. Yeah, he's their first born. So we want him to be healthy and we want them to thrive, don't we?

Alice Agnello: Exactly. Because if they don't, then you know you're setting them up to fail more frequently later on if you can't just let go of the reins like just a little bit. So has he been communicating with you guys on a regular basis? I know some kids don't, and that's been a frequent complaint from other parents is like, “It's radio silent and I don't know what they're doing. I can't… They don't talk to me. They don't text me.” So he's been pretty communicative with you guys.

Jon Magnuson: There's times he goes radio silent for sure. I think it's just jumbling or juggling, if you will, his school with his… He's got a roommate there. They play some games, and then his work. And yeah, that's a little difficult. Now, I don't know… The kids these days, they don't text that much. When they talk with their friends, they use this Snapchat. And so he's on Snapchat all the time. He goes, “The only people that really text me are you guys, mom and dad.” And that's it. And so he's like… So he doesn't check his texts, like it doesn't pop up or something. I don't know how it works. But I'm sitting there going, “Huh?” But he'll check in once in a while. Probably not as often as we'd like. But it's funny when we do, and I do get a call, so here's a quick story.

Middle of the day, probably a month ago, and three o'clock and I'd pick up the phone and I'm like, “Hey, what's going on?” And immediately I'm thinking, is there something wrong? Because he doesn't call often. And he's like, “Hey, just sitting outside a Smashburger,” where he works, “In my car here.” I said, “Oh, everything okay there? That's going on?” And he was like, “Oh yeah.” He got promoted now. “They want me to be trained here.” I like, “Well look at you. Nice. Make a few more bucks.” “Oh yeah. Make more money.” You know? So he was just proud. He just wanted to tell me that he got promoted and I'm fine with that. It's like having them around the dinner table. I'm drinking it up. Sure. He called me. I don't care what I'm doing right now. No. It's one of those things right where you're like, so he's fine, one. That's good. Two, he's got good news and he's proud to share it and I'm happy for him. That's good.

But otherwise, I don't hear that much from him. I do throw things out there cause we like sports. And so I'll throw out a trivia question or a quick little nugget of something I've seen, and I may not get an answer for four hours, but I do get an answer, and then he'll throw something back. So that's our way to connect. And she seems to have a little better success. And that's probably because I said, “When you leave, call your mother and text your mother more than me. I'm okay with that. Just keep her in the loop.” you know? So I want her to feel like he's right there still, because it's been tough on it. I don't know how. How do you prepare for this?

I know you can sit here and say that nobody teaches you this one. I don't even know how quick it's snuck up on us. But how did this happen so quick that he's out of the house and may not come back? I never went back. Once I moved out, I never went back. My brothers and my sister all seemed to move back for a spell at one time or another. I never did. Did you ever move back?

Alice Agnello: No, I don't think I did. I think I was living at home for a little bit just on my last… No, actually I didn't. I think about that. I think I moved in with my husband for like the last year of college and then we got married after that. So, no, I don't think I ever came back either. And I only came back, I think during like the summers or during breaks, I think is the only time that I did. And I think it's like you know that there's an expiration date. You know it's going to happen. You see it happening, or it's coming when you're starting to apply for colleges and then you're getting all the stuff ready and then all of a sudden you're taking to the dorm room. But it really doesn't sink in, I think, until you drive away, and then it's a little quieter in the house and there's not as much mess in the house. What do you think was the most surprising or most unexpected thing that you didn't expect to happen?

Jon Magnuson: The fact that we actually couldn't look at his room. We couldn't look at his door. It couldn't… I know I couldn't walk in his room. She definitely couldn't walk in his room. And it's morbid as this sounds, it was like he passed away. We're like, “Whoa, I cannot go in that room.” I don't know why we couldn't go in his room. So that was tough. The other part of it was his brother has got a smaller size room, and he has this Funko toy collection of which they're all over the house. So he wants to put shelves up and take his older brother's room because it's bigger. Now, the side note is that we have her mother, and my mother-in-law, and her sister, my sister-in-law living with us because they need some help right now and they're have some physical issues.

So they're in one of the other bedrooms. So the idea was, initially Nicole said, “Okay well Kyler can move into Keaton's room, and her sister could move into Kylie's room and then everybody has a bedroom and then Keaton doesn't have a bedroom.” But he's not here. And I pulled rank on this, mostly because I'll win every arm wrestle. I said, No, we're not taking Keaton's room from him just because he moved out three or four months ago.”

I want them to be able to come home and have his room. I just think that's good. Now, down the road, another 18 months or 18 years maybe we'll get rid of his room. But I'm just like, “No. I just want him to be able to feel like he has a place.” Because if you don't feel like you can come home and you're putting out your family to visit, they might not visit. So I didn't want that, and I won out and I think it's been a good call. So now I have Funko pops in my office where I work at home as well. But yeah, that's been the toughest thing. How was it for you?

Alice Agnello: I think we waited about two years for my older son, when he moved out for his last two years of college and signed leases basically for the whole year. So I knew he wasn't going to come home, for a whole entire year. And then he re upped his lease right after that. So during that time was the time that I decided he's not coming. And he moved mostly all of his stuff up to where he was. He also doesn't like where we live. So I knew he wouldn't come back here to try and get a job. I knew he was going to be up there. And so I basically called him one day and I said, “Hey, we're going to repaint your room. Is that okay? You've taken most of your stuff.” And he was like, “No, I'm fine with that. It's fine.”

Alice Agnello: And so it's still his room in the sense like if he comes home to visit, this is where he's going to sleep, and we've just made it look nicer basically, for him. It's also part of my office. So he has to deal with that if he comes and visits us. But it was a pretty smooth transition in that sense, because like I said, he made those leases and he had those leases. So it was just a no brainer that he really wasn't ever in a come back. Are you expecting things to be different, the same when he comes home for like the holiday break?

Jon Magnuson: It's going to be our first Christmas where we don't travel to Denver. We've always gone to Denver, Colorado, where we're both from, had family up there. And even last year with her mother living with us now and less of her family up there, we still traveled up there. But this is the first year we're actually doing Christmas here in San Diego. And it's never been done. In fact, the kids were shocked we weren't going. They're like, “Oh yeah, when are we going up to Denver?” Because that's all they've ever known is that's been Christmas. And selfishly probably, I've always spent Christmas with my mother, and I did so for 50 years. The last two years she hasn't been with us, but on Christmas I've gone to the cemetery just to chat with mom. So 50 straight years. It's folks, if you can't tell that Jon is a mama's boy, that should give it to you.

But this'll be the first year that I'm not going to be in Denver on Christmas. I think my mom will understand. Her sister will go visit her at the cemetery. It's just not a good fit, trying to travel her sister and her mom. She's in another state. We're just going to do it here and pre our chat here, I showed you a few of the Christmas decorations. So the house is ready. We're ready to have him home. It's probably going to be 10 days. We're actually planning just to have some fun cookouts. He's got a lot of friends from high school that are all coming back. So this is the hub we need to be at. So we're excited for that, holidays. We're excited for visits and we're just doing the best we can. I think that's what we look forward to is the next time we're going to see him or the next time we'll get our family together, and just be together.

I think one other thing about walking past his room or not going into his room is having meals where his chair is empty, at the dinner table. And I think one of the first nights we made like a Keaton 2.0 version and just put a piece of paper there where he normally would be, because that's what we do when someone in the family's out of town, is we send a picture. Because you know how you can send pictures really quick on your phone nowadays. So it's kind of fun. But it's definitely tough not to have him. And we end up talking about him. Or when somebody does something like he would do at the table, we're like, “Oh that's what Keaton would do.” So it's very interesting how much an impact your kids have on you and how they're just your life. That's what you do for 18 years.

And then after that it starts to sort of fade away. And somebody told me once Alice, that your kids spend 95% of the time they will ever spend with you, the first 18 years. And then the rest of that time, only 5% of the time they'll spend with you is after they're 18 years old. And I guess you'd would think about it. Yeah, they slept in your house, you saw them every day for pretty much 18 years. And then all of a sudden you don't. And we're not quite ready to move far away. We're deciding where we want to be next. I'm like, “Well where are the kids going to be? We'll buy there.”

Well we don't know where they'll be. They could go anywhere. How are we going to know that? So now I'm like, “Well, we're going to have to have several houses wherever they live so I'm going to have to work longer, I guess. I don't know, but it's been difficult. And I'm supposed to be tough guy and alpha male in every regard. But my kids melt me, and I would run through fire and glass, stop a train for them. And it's just because they're my little buddies.

Alice Agnello: I think it's those little adjustments that sneak up on you. So like you were saying, there's always four place settings for dinner and then for a long time now there's three. So your habit has always been to pull four plates down, pull four forks, and then it's that all of a sudden, “Oh wait, now I just do three every night.” And it's the adjustment of how much food am I cooking? I need to adjust that budget down. And then you had just a back up again when he's back in the house. Do you think that you and Nicole had been handling it differently at all or kind of the same way?

Jon Magnuson: Mostly the same. There's been a little nuances here and there that are different. But yeah, I think both in trying to interact and keep up with his life, but not smother him. More support than anything. We've been pleasantly surprised at how often he's gone to work and picked up extra shifts. And he's like, “Yeah, money's tight right now. I've got to pick up some more work.” He's paying his own way and going to college. That's impressive. He pays his own rent, he pays his car insurance, it feeds themselves. And I'm like, “I didn't want to provide all the money for him. We can. We have it.” But I didn't want to tell him that. So he can't listen to this now because I didn't want to enable the fact that he didn't have to stand on his own two feet. And he is.

And she has a little more tougher time watching him struggle and talk about money because we both struggled severely. We put ourselves through college. We didn't have anybody to fall back on at that time. It was one of the things that brought us together, talking about how we were both just eating top ramen, and I was eating a baked potato or whatever. And we were just talking about it, and she didn't want it to be that way for our kids. And so she goes, “I don't want them to have to worry about money.” And I said, “It's good for them.” It's actually good that he is the value of a dollar, that he has to be… How is that a want or a need? Do I need new shoes or do I want those shoes? And so those kinds of things are working out.

And I said, “It'll be good for him. We're not going to let him fall. We're not going to let him struggle.” We're here, but we're not telling him that we're right behind him, ready to support him because he's learning and he's going to be fine. Just because this first four or five months has been so impressive and he's making good money and I can track is his checking account online. And I kid him, when I talked to him, I go, “Oh, looks like you went to Chipotle. Did you get double chicken? Who spends $13 at Chipotle?” He's like, I got the double chicken. Yes I did. What are you, watching me?” I guess I am.

But I was on there really just to check my accounts and then I saw his and I took a look to see, well where's this spending going? And that's sort of our deal because I'm filtering some of the money he has saved, we have saved for college into that account if needed. So I just want to make sure he doesn't over withdraw or something. But he's got it all figured out. In the end I think the kids are going to be all right.

Alice Agnello: It's the parents who may take longer to adjust the whole entire thing instead.

Jon Magnuson: So true. How's it been? I know you have the one at home, but how's it been with you? Are they able to stand on their own two feet yet, or are you a little bit leery of it still and they have some room to grow? Where are you at?

Alice Agnello: Took our eldest a good six months to stand on his own. Well, let me back up. I warned him that he wouldn't be getting any more support from mom and dad in the end of May. “You've got to figure this out. Whether it's ‘a real job' or you're doing something part-time or retail or working at a restaurant, something to until you find that job that you really want to do.” So graduated in May. He finally just got his real job a couple of weeks ago. So it was definitely a struggle for him for the whole entire time. And we helped, every once in a while, because he had a lot of medical bills that he was also trying to deal with. He's been very responsible in the sense that he doesn't ask unless he truly, truly, truly need some help, because it's just getting too much for him.

So finally got a real job. He is much happier now, because of course there's a regular paycheck and there's less stress involved. And now we're talking 401ks and health plans and, “What do I do?” And it's just interesting how the conversation has changed over the last few years, and trying to explain bigger things to him. Meaning like, “How does 401k work and why am I investing in these little things and how is this supposed to help in the future?” So it's been interesting to see him mature in that regard, and take on more responsibilities, and take on his oil changes, and not be reminded of those little things that have to be taken care of. Going out with his girlfriend and then purchasing a TV together. Just doing these bigger things together, where we didn't have any say, control, inputs in the whole entire process. But then like today I just got a text message about how, “Hey, I got a speeding ticket. What do I do?” Like, “Okay, I'm still needed,” in that regard.

Jon Magnuson: Yeah, it's different. It's a different need. Now can he not tell his daddy got the speeding ticket? He can tell you. I'm just curious.

Alice Agnello: No, it's because I'm a more accessible on my text messages than my husband is. And so they'll usually text me first and then if I say I don't know about that particular thing, like he texted me once about painting. And so my husband's in construction, and I'm like, “Why are you texting me this question? You have a resource. Go text it.” “Oh yeah, that's right. I forgot.” And then I was out of that conversation. Did you really do anything to prepare yourself for this transition of him leaving, or you were just kind of totally caught unawares?

Jon Magnuson: I did think about purchasing a condo in Phoenix that he could live in. But the idea was that we would buy a place that we would also utilize, and whether it was right now, or even utilize it down the road. So I was looking at that and that was sort of the thing I thought would be a good preparation. But we weren't actually sure he'd like Arizona. He was born there and lived there nine years before we moved here. And they've always had nice Arizona roots, the boys, and liked it better. But they actually made a life and a lot of friends out here too. So yeah. So we weren't quite sure. And I also was like, “Listen, if I buy this condo that's really nice, he'd get spoiled because he's living in this condo that that's someplace that I want to maybe have as a retirement place or getaway.” And so maybe I'll buy a lesser condo. So that's half the price, and it's kind of a little bit rundown and someplace Nicole and I couldn't see ourselves living.

Fine for 19 year old kid. Not fine for a snobby, white, middle class Americans who… I want a nicer place. And so I'm like, “Wait, that defeats the purpose then.” Because I don't want to just buy. Should I buy him? I don't know. So I kind of wishy washy, I'm always looking at real estate. So I thought that was my way of preparing. But the time went by so quick, probably the last six to nine months. It just snowballed. Accelerated. Oh my gosh. And before you knew it, we were finding a real apartment for him and his buddy out there to move out.

So it was tough to slow that down because he got so much momentum. And the days went by like ours, the last month. And I do what I can. I have some season tickets to the Cardinals' football game there. So I would go back for a few games. He's going to a few games with the tickets and stuff. And so I find my reasons to go back to Phoenix. So those things keep me sort of like excited that I'll see him. But football is over in January. The Cardinals are not good. They won't be in the playoffs. So now what do I do between January and May as he's going to school? So I'm already trying to plan a family trip over spring break. But when's his spring break? When is the junior and high school spring break? How's this going to work people? And so I don't know. I don't know.

And there's a lot of moving parts when they have jobs and different schedules than you. And maybe it's just going to be two day, three day getaways where we meet them in Phoenix, because it's easier. I don't know. There's no preparation for it. I don't know that I was ready to prepare for one of the children moving out. And then what happens when the second one goes? I mean literally, we're not going to have any kids. We're going to have to start talking to each other. I told her, I said, “You're actually going to have to start talking with me. My gosh, I hope you still like me.”

Alice Agnello: I had a conversation once with my husband about that. Basically, when we went someplace, and we didn't have to check in with anybody, or talk to anyone, or just all the things you normally do with your kids. And I turned to him in the car and I said, “I'm so lucky that I still like you.” And he's like, “What are you talking about?” And I'm like, I said, “Well, without kids in the house, like I still enjoy talking to you and going places with you and doing things or staying home and not doing things. I'm so grateful that we still have that between us and we still like each other as individuals.”

Jon Magnuson: Did he say the same? Did he say the same thing or did he say it… He was going to tell you something.

Alice Agnello: No, thank God. No, he was like, he kind of joked around but he's like, “Yeah, I understand. I know what you mean.” We are lucky in that regard. And I don't know if it's because both of our sets of parents are still together. We've had good role models in that way, or we've just kind of… We were best friends before we got married and that's just continued on. And so we've just gone and gotten lucky in that space. So my husband's been pretty okay with this whole entire emptiness. He's just whatever, and even more to the point where he's wanting to shake them a little sooner than maybe I wanted to. So my question to you is, for the guy's perspective, have you noticed, or is it just not talked about as much with more of the men? And I don't know if you have any other friends going through what you are going through, but do you notice a difference between men and women in this regard?

Jon Magnuson: A couple of differences I do notice is that, sometimes the moms don't realize that the young boys, when they have a girlfriend, as they get older, the girlfriend usually go to the girlfriend's house for the holidays. And so be ready for that. I've been hearing a lot of that. I've got a couple of friends that have older kids that now, and it's like, “Wait, they're not coming over here?” “No, they're going to his girlfriend's house.” So if you have sons, the boys seem to want to go to the girlfriend's house just because that'll make her happy. And maybe they'll split time if they're close by but maybe not. So be ready for that one. Some of the moms are just like dreading that, like, “What? So I won't see him on Christmas even?” It's like, “Well you might, or you might see them after Christmas. Maybe they'll join you for new year's.”

My kids are still afraid of girls to some in some regards, my sons, which is fine because I just don't want to deal with any of that drama anyway. So that's good. But I think that'll sort itself out as they get a little older too. The other thing would be pushing them out of the house is good. You want to get them off, what I call the payroll as quick as you can. That gets them to stand on their own two feet. I also like it too when they're in a swimming pool and you let them hold on the ledge so they're holding on to the ledge, and they don't ever have to kind of kick and I kind of go over and want to peal their fingers off and say, “Okay, can't hold on to the ledge. Now what are you going to do? It's right here but I don't want you to go out ledge. Now swim, swim, swim.”

And as long as you let them hold their hand on the ledge, they won't swim and they won't exercise those legs and learn how to swim. So it is a little bit of tough love, and I may have to be the heavy in that regard, because I think she'd rather just have him live right here. The younger one says he wants to live here, and he wants to live here for the first two years. And so when she said, “I don't know what I'm going to do when you leave, I'll be a wreck.” He's like, “Well you got four more years with me, two in high school and two down the street at the, you know the JuCo,” that he's… “And it only makes sense because you can get free tuition and then they just transfer into any Cal State school, mom.” So he's already figured it out. This is the same kid who is dialed into school, not only when he was 12 he looked at Cal Berkeley and said, “I think I want to go to Cal because they have a good program and mom likes San Francisco. So I know she'll visit.” At age 12. I didn't even know what college was at age 12. I was out catching frogs or something.

Alice Agnello: And so how has she reacted to that knowledge that now she'll have him for four more years instead?

Jon Magnuson: Well she was funny because be careful that you wished for that and all of a sudden she's like, “Well wait a second. I don't know if I want that either”, because we want them to stand on their own two feet. We don't know if we want them to live at home and maybe not experience what we did. I think dorm life would be good for one of them. Maybe both. We never did the dorm thing really. I think she did first semester, but I never did. But I don't know, maybe not. I think we wanted him to have a different experience than we did at college, and we really… I took six years to get through school, mostly because I had to work and pay for it. So I would take a semester off and work three jobs and make enough money, and then go the next semester full-time and work just two jobs, and then take back next semester off and work three jobs to get enough tuition to pay for the next one. So it took me six years to get through college.

Jon Magnuson: So people are always like, “Oh yeah I was on the six year plan,” because they partied and didn't go to enough classes. That wasn't me. I had to take it off to pay for school. And the one thing we're very proud of, and we didn't mean it this way, it's just we're self-made. We paid for our school ourselves. And the kids have their tuition. We set it aside. We've been fortunate in that regard, but we're not telling them that. We're wanting them to do stand on their own two feet, release their fingers from the ledge a little bit, and maybe they'll swim a little faster than if we keep on the payroll till they're 25, you know.

Alice Agnello: Do you think that's why your older was able to adjust to college so quickly, compared to some other kids, and be able to kind of stand on his own two feet is because how he saw your examples of what you guys did, and heard stories about how you guys survived your college experience?

Jon Magnuson: I do think so. And he's actually mentioned it and said, That's what you did. I'm just going to go to junior college because that's what you did dad, and then transfer. It saves money. It only makes sense.” And I'm like, I didn't tell him that's what he had to do. He came up with the idea, and I supported it. And so that was kind of interesting. Yeah, I do think that's helped him. Ironically, Alex, he actually moved into the same apartment complex in Mesa, Arizona that I moved into when I left Denver in January of 1991. We looked at 10 different places and then he found this one, and as soon as he said the address, I went, “Oh my gosh.” And I never even pointed him that way. Granted, it was a lot newer when I was there. This is 28 years later, but he rented one block of apartments over from the building I was in. So I was in 210 and he's in 225.

It was so surreal to be moving him into this complex that I left Denver in the middle of winter, snowy and cold, came down. People still had their Christmas lights and the light and the grass was green in this complex. And you could swim in the pool, in January of 1991, and that's where I moved. And now my son has moved into the same complex. It's surreal. It's full circle. He is probably going to be a sun devil when he transfers like I was at Arizona state. So yeah. I said, “Why don't you just find a girl named Nicole and live my life? What are you doing?”

Alice Agnello: Be so confusing. Don't do that.

Jon Magnuson: That's true.

Alice Agnello: So if you could give one piece of advice to someone else looking towards this in the next year, so by next August, what would be your biggest advice you could give to them?

Jon Magnuson: I guess the biggest thing is just cherish the moments you have, just really drink in and get real with them. Have conversations like Mr. Rogers is saying in the movie with Tom Hanks is out right now. It's just like, “Anything that you can talk about is manageable.” And I really like that. So just talk things that you need to talk about. Finances, school, talk about moving and living on your own. But enjoy the moments you have with them because once they're gone, that first two weeks, man, we were a wreck here. We were really a wreck. And I never thought I would be. I'm supposed to be tough guy and I have to tell you, it was tough. It was tough.

Alice Agnello: I think. I think it's because you see more women's support groups about the emptiness then you do guys. I haven't been able to find them. Guys don't want to talk about it, or they just have a different perspective. Our mutual friend reached out and said, “Hey, talk to Jon. I think it'd be a good for you.” I was like, “Yes. I want to talk to someone who actually wants to talk about the guys' perspective of the whole entire emptiness and how this transition.” Everyone's different. I think even men and women are different. I mean some women are gung ho and they have no problem with this, and some men are the same way, and I think other men and women are the complete opposite. And it's like there's this shock to their system. There's a grieving process. There's anger, there's the whole thing with this. They weren't ready for this to happen to their family.

Jon Magnuson: Yeah, I agree with you. I think part of it is just awareness, and know that it's coming and just being able to talk about it. And actually when we don't, and we kind of turn our back to our emotions or our feelings and just kind of say, it'll be fine, it's fine, and this is just life, and you kind of tough it out. I don't think you're dealing with it. Just like our normal everyday problems, if you don't deal with it, if you don't discuss what's bothering you with loved one or our partner, it's just festers, doesn't it? And at what age are you going to realize that you need to address and have a conversation. And it may not be pleasant, but how much better do you feel when you both get your side out and then, it's time to to make up. It's time to move forward. And that's the best part about it.

So I've told my kids, I said, “Listen”, anytime we've had problems, especially with the oldest one, I'd be like, “This is my first time being a parent. This is my first time with a 13 year old. So your first time being 13, and my first time having a 13 year old. No one taught me how to do this. So we're kind of doing this together.” And here he is, the 19, still, on my first time with a 19 year old. My second one is 16. I've had this, I've had a 16 year old before so I have a little bit of knowledge but this is his first time being 16. So he's learning how to drive now, doesn't really want to. We're not sure what that is. And you probably have had some of that. We wanted to get our driver's license the first day. Well these guys can come out, connect with their friends electronically so quick. They don't need to drive anywhere.

Alice Agnello: That has been one of the shocking things. I have friends who don't have their children, they still aren't driving yet and they're 17, 18 years old, and it is such a shock to the system. Our generation, that was the thing. The day we turned 16, you went down and you got everything, and you went and they drove. Like, “Nah, that's okay.” I'm like, “Oh my God, is this freedom? What are you talking about?”

Jon Magnuson: I have no idea how come that became a thing. But yeah, I'm actually like… But finally after the oldest one Keaton got his license when he has past the age of 17, it was funny to watch how well, and then I gave him a car he could use. Oh and now he's, “I'm going over to play basketball, I'm going to do this.” And like, “Oh yeah,” he's starting to like it. “You should have done that a year ago.” But I'm glad he didn't. Maybe he wasn't ready. So sometimes you just have to let them kind of go down that path on their own.

My job is to kind of keep in play like guardrails, and I started keeping in play. Like stay in, stay in. Okay. Push him down the road, push him down the road, pull those fingers off the ledge, keep them in play, “Let's go, start swimming.” And now we're coming to that end and it's like, “Huh, maybe I will retire early and now I'll just kind of watch you guys grow and we'll visit you when we want to visit you.” So we'll see. We're excited about it. We do get along and that helps.

Alice Agnello: Well thank you Jon. Is there anything else that you wanted to kind of impart? Any other wisdom?

Jon Magnuson: Anybody out there wants to talk a little bit about it, or join in on some conversation about it, I'd be happy to kick that around with you because it's important. And it's important to have a little support group and hear from others and that's how we learn. It's how we grow. So it's been great chatting with you, and I like what you're doing here, and if you can help moms and help dads, and help anybody who's going through this, I think it's a good thing.

Alice Agnello: Thank you, Jon. I appreciate it. Thanks for talking today.

Jon Magnuson: Thank you.

To listen to the episode instead, click here.

Scroll to Top

I want the Guide!

Download the FREE guide to 5 Things You Can Do This Week To Help Find Yourself. You are ready to take this next step now that the kids have grown.

The guide will help you:

→  Work on your mindset so you can recognize negative thoughts and work to quiet them.

→  Help figure out what’s bothering you and know it’s okay to go at your own pace.

→ Understand that taking care of yourself is the most important person in your life and to release the guilt.

Sign up to receive my whitty newsletters, tips & tricks, promotions, & other emails, & receive this free guide!

Before you go, get the Guide!

Download the FREE guide to 5 Things You Can Do This Week To Help Find Yourself. You are ready to take this next step now that the kids have grown.

The guide will help you:

→  Work on your mindset so you can recognize negative thoughts and work to quiet them.

→  Help figure out what’s bothering you and know it’s okay to go at your own pace.

→ Understand that taking care of yourself is the most important person in your life and to release the guilt.

Sign up to receive my whitty newsletters, tips & tricks, promotions, & other emails, & receive this free guide!