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When your nest empties

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We’ve taken two kids to university for first year and watched each have one year in residence and then share a succession of houses.

Wherever they’re living, check the fire and smoke alarms. Get one for their room if they don’t have one, go top of the line, and get extra batteries. Make sure they take all that stuff out of the packaging and have it operational.

Know what you’re signing. If your young adult is the one signing the cable agreement, urge her or him read the fine print and make sure it’s just for that one year of school. No matter what the cable person said over the phone, read the contract. Six months after your house burns down, the TV and cable system are ashes, you’ve lost everything you had, there’s been no house for months after the end of the school year to which cable could be delivered — after all that, you don’t want to get letters from a lawyer and a collection agency threatening to wreck your financial life if you don’t pay up for never-ending cable to a non-existent house.

No, it’s not summer camp with your name sewn into your unmentionables, but you really should put your name in your clothes. That way, when you notice something missing from your closet and you think you’ve seen it in a housemate’s closet and you’ve seen said housemate wearing it at the club on Facebook, you’ll have some proof.

Educate your housemates about hygiene. Maybe they can invoke The Force to make dirty dishes float themselves out to the kitchen, wash themselves, and put them away, but just in case, make sure they’re aware that they can carry their dishes to the kitchen, dump the scraps in the trash, and wash the dishes.

Then there’s food. Each student probably has a section of cupboard, fridge, and freezer, and is on a limited budget. Alas, food may go missing.

Here are suggestions I’ve previously made: if something regularly walks away by itself, try stirring in some laxatives the next time you add that item to your larder; Agatha Christie novels suggest a wide variety of creative and innovative solutions, some of which might create a vacancy for a new roommate; or, finally, when something disappears, run into the house screaming, "OMG! Did you see that story in the daily newspaper today warning about the deadly toxic super-poisonous parasite in the (missing product). I am sooooo glad I hadn’t eaten it yet!"

Oh, right, and get the serial numbers off everything, and register everything you can. When someone steals your bicycle and then puts a photo of it on-line when trying to sell it, don’t take the law into your own hands, phone the police — and a big shoutout to the Peterborough constabulary for their quick work in achieving justice and recovering stolen bikes throughout the Kawarthas.

When you visit, take them to the supermarket for all the food they usually can’t afford. And then take them out to good restaurants.

Finally, they’re never too old to be hugged — hug them every chance you get. But never forget that they’re adults and that their lives will turn out just fine leaving them to live their own lives if you’ve done right by the first 17 years.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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