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Last Bird in the Nest

Rachel Bachrach

The once lively house has become quiet as the kids have established homes of their own. But it’s not over yet — one child remains. And that brings unique challenges, opportunities, and pleasures for child and parents alike.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

For more than three decades, the Schiffmillers of Oceanside, New York, had children at home. But a few years ago, with the four older ones married and their fifth away at school, Shaindy, the youngest, was the only one left.

“ ‘What’s it like with the old people?’ we would tease her,” Mrs. Helene Schiffmiller says.

The Schiffmiller nest had been emptying for a while already. The two oldest girls, who went to Israel after high school and ended up staying there, would come home in the summers to visit. “I just keep rotating my children,” Mrs. Schiffmiller remembers joking with her friends. “As some come back from Israel, others go to camp.”

But that eventually stopped as the ones who left the house got married and began building homes of their own. After thirty years with a houseful of children, everyone but Shaindy was gone.

Mrs. Schiffmiller was a stay-at-home mother, so she valued the extra personal time she could devote to her youngest, who was in high school. She was available to volunteer at school functions and to drive Shaindy to extracurricular activities.

For her part, Shaindy appreciated the fact that her mother was not tied up with parenting other children, that the car was nearly always available, and that she could come and go as she pleased. Also, Shaindy was treated like more of a grown-up than her older siblings had been.

“My mother was shifting out of mother mode,” Shaindy remembers.

There was almost a sense that Shaindy was the Schiffmillers’ final shot. “I view it as a golden opportunity,” Mrs. Schiffmiller says. “This is it, this is the last chance. I’ve got to do it great.”


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