My husband and I are raising five children together. Three are his from a previous marriage and two that we’ve added to the family. I’ve been Mom to all five for so long that we no longer really think of the older kids as “his” and both of us were equally pained when our son, Derek, graduated from high school in 2005 and immediately shipped off to Army Basic Training. This summer was even worse, because our daughter Kira, now 22, decided to live in Long Island for the summer instead of coming home at all.

Parents always joke about getting their kids to 18 and regaining their freedom, but the fact is, it is emptier without them. Certainly, we keep in touch by phone (more with Kira than with Derek; Kira faithfully texts at least once per day and calls each week; Derek confirms that he is alive when we finally can’t stand not hearing from him long enough).

We were grateful last Christmas that Derek was able to arrange leave and come home for Christmas while his sister was home on her break from college. We had all five kids under the roof for a change, and it was wonderful. We may actually be able to pull that off again, since Kira will still be coming home for college and (fingers crossed) Derek will not be deployed overseas this time.

But how do you stay connected when your grown up kids move away and do their own thing? Oh sure, you say…Facebook.

Except that neither of our kids participate in their generation’s social media frenzy. I know, really? Their grandparents are on Facebook and they aren’t. What’s up with that?! (Same goes for Twitter). Texting is the only thing they both participate in.

We have to make sure they know that we love them from a distance, even as we support the adventure they’re taking in their own lives.

Both of the kids are in dorms, whether military or college, and have limited space. Neither have kitchens of their own. Food makes a very special gift that lets them know we’re thinking of them, so we send regular packages. We call often and try to Skype when we can.

Mostly, though, we don’t spend too much time lamenting their choices – do we wish Kira would have come home for the summer? Certainly. Do we wish Derek would pick up the phone a bit more often? Of course. But we raised our kids to be fiercely independent, to pursue their passions, to explore the world, and to pave their own paths. We will not be the roadblock that keeps them from doing it now.

We joke about the smaller grocery bill without Derek and the much smaller water bill without Kira, but mostly, we’re just proud of the adults they’ve become (and bite our tongues when the trails they blaze go unexpected places).