It’s been said that it takes 21 days to form a habit. That’s always seemed reasonable to me. It does make me wonder, though how long does it take to undo the habit?

When a child goes away to school, or gets a first apartment, or moves across the country or out of the country how long does it take parents to fully realize that “child” is not upstairs, or a mile or two away at high school?

You have to learn to set the table for dinner with one less place. When you open the door to take the newspaper off the porch, you don’t have to do it as quietly any more, to avoid waking someone sleeping close by. If you are at work and realize you forgot something you really need, there’s one less person to call and take it to you. Good grief sometimes you even have to remember to take out the trash yourself.

Whether a grown (or nearly grown) child moves across town or across the world, you never totally stop missing someone who has been a part of your daily existence for a couple of decades or more. Being able to call, text or Skype helps sometimes.

Of course, there’s also one less person for you to bail out, in case the need arises.

You have to get used to cooking for fewer people, or learn what freezes really well for future use. You learn what meals your child really misses having mom or dad cook by the requests when that child is home for a visit. Sometimes the things you or your young adult took for granted for years become special again.

But would you change your children leaving the nest to try their wings? Probably not how else will they learn how to fly?

I believe the way to hold onto something that means the world to you is to extend an open hand. That way, there’s always a place for a fledgling to safely land without fear of being held too tightly.

When our children come home for a visit (or a longer time), many times they come with things to teach us, as well as new ideas that are different from what we believe. They might change us or we might change them or we might both listen, debate, and call it a draw. I have learned that debate is healthy as long as it involves respect on both sides.

One thing I’ve learned from my son Daniel is that vegetarian meals can be delicious, as well as healthy. He has grown up to be a really good cook (and he can cook a meal much faster than I can).

ROASTED EGGPLANT

1 large eggplant

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Slice eggplant in half lengthwise, then cut each half into quarters lengthwise. Cut each of those in half to make two shorter quarters. Place the eggplant onto the baking sheet with the skin side down. Brush each piece with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the preheated oven until softened and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve hot.

Serves three to four.