by Terri Libenson
If you follow Pajama Diaries, of course you know that Amy has flown the coop. She hasn't flown far, thankfully -- only about an hour away -- to the fictional liberal arts school, Waverly University. I try to stay 5-6 months ahead of my deadlines. This keeps me relatively sane and allows me to get sick, go on vacations, or write a kids' book or two. This also means I have to project how I (or Jill) will feel in 5-6-months' time, which can get very tricky if the strip deals with a milestone like a bat mitzvah, prom, or yes...a kid going off to college. Most of the time I can project pretty accurately...or close enough. This time was another story. Sure, I knew I'd be sad about my older daughter leaving for college. What I wasn't prepared for -- and wasn't reflected in the strip -- was HOW sad I'd be. The drive home from my daughter's move-in day required a few (thousand pounds of) tissues. Luckily I got over that and somehow I'm managing to lead a productive life without her. Yeah, okay, so I may text her a few (thousand) times a day, but that's also another story. Emotions aside, when I came up with this storyline during my daughter's senior year, I wrote mainly from Amy's perspective and largely ignored the devastating effects of her departure. Maybe it was subconscious avoidance or just plain ignorance (I haven't done the deep-rooted self analysis yet). Either way, I think this was a missed opportunity to see how deeply Jill, Rob, Amy, and even Jess are affected. If/when Jess heads off to school, I think you'll see the family having an even stronger reaction. From what I've heard from other parents, it's more affecting when the last child leaves, which makes sense. It'll definitely be a great opportunity for Jill and Rob to explore their new lives without kids in tow. I'm sometimes asked what I'll do about the strip when both kids leave. Honestly, I don't know. I write so organically, my characters tend to surprise me. I do think that the strip will continue to evolve. I just don't know in what ways.  One thing I know for sure: just because the characters grow older doesn't mean they'll stop having stories or being part of a family. And just because Jill and Rob approach empty nest-hood doesn't mean their lives will be less relevant.  You'll just have to wait and see...like me.

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