It’s funny how life progresses on and something that seemed so unusual suddenly becomes normal.

No, I am not talking about wearing a mask, because I do not think that will ever feel normal.

Tatum came home in March when her college dorm was shut down due to COVID-19. We did not know if it was going to be an extended spring break or maybe a little longer. Well, it has now been five months of extended spring break and it is time for her to go back to college.

Jennifer and I had settled into an empty nest routine before she came home, and I am not sure for whom shared habitation was the biggest shock.

At first, it was like she was just back for a couple of weeks like Christmas break, except none of us could go anywhere. I appreciated the help because we were calving hot and heavy and still getting some lambs. Then I hurt my ankle and Jennifer and the kids had to take over the chores for two or three weeks. That was about the time I made the observation of how nice it was that our kids had turned into productive, responsible adults and things carried on better than if I was there.

Tatum and I settled into a routine and it was nice to have another set of hands every morning and evening for chores. I must admit that we got more fence fixing, brush cutting, thistle spraying, and general maintenance done this spring than ever before. I would not say we were caught up, but we were in pretty good shape.

Isaac left for his summer internship shortly after we got all the cows out to grass, and we settled into a new normal with one fewer set of hands.

Then Tatum started her summer internship. It was local and thankfully, it gave me a chance to ease back into working solo during the week again.

I must admit, I had gotten spoiled, and two person chores go a lot faster than solo. I always gave Dad a hard time about just taking me along to open gates — this spring and summer, I came to fully understand the value in a gate opener.

Tatum leaves for college this week, and Isaac does not move back to the area until a week later. Jennifer and I can probably manage for the next week on our own, but it has taught me that I need to appreciate my now-adult children more.

This COVID pandemic has had a couple of positive points. One being that I enjoy being at home, and having a more wide-open calendar is a good thing.

Most importantly, the developments of the past five months have shown me that my two kids have grown up and are perfectly capable of making good decisions both in life and when it comes to the farm. I learned that I could trust and rely on them to make the right decision, and maybe they have learned a thing or two in college that the old man can learn from.

Here is the funny thing: I would guess that over the past five months, they have also learned that Mom and Dad maybe are a little smarter, too.

I must admit that I am a little sad that Tatum is going back to school, and it will take a period of time to adjust back to being “empty nesters”. That is being a little selfish and I am proud that we raised our kids to be independent adults. I know Tatum is anxious to see people her own age and especially anxious to get her freedom back. Ultimately, as a parent, your goal is for them to fly out of the nest and be on their own, so there is a great deal of pride in that.

That pride also does not mean that we will not worry about the kids. There are a lot of reasons lately with this messed up world to worry about your kids, but there is a lot of comfort in knowing that generally they make the right decisions and when they don’t, they learn from their mistakes. Watching from a distance is the hardest part of parenting,

I will wrap it up before I get too sappy because that usually results in an eyeroll. All I know for sure is that things are about to change, and it will be a while before then new becomes the normal again. We are creatures of habit and I would guess that very soon we will be settled into the new routine and Christmas break will upset the apple cart again, but in a good way.

In the meantime, I will have to get used to opening my own gates for a while.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. Reach him at