Empty-nest syndrome hit Dan and Pam Pisner harder than most parents who send their children off to college. All five of their children — quintuplets who made headlines when they were born in 1983 — left for college last fall.
ABCNEWS' Barbara Walters first got to know the Pisner children — Devin, Ian, Shira, Michael and Elliot — when they were 14 months old. She revisited the quintuplets last year, as they prepared to leave their home in Olney, Md. and head off to college.
A Natural, But Difficult, Change
"It's just so hard to believe that 18 years have gone by so quickly," said Pam, a government worker who was 29 years old when she gave birth to the quintuplets after fertility treatments. "I am going to be crying my eyes out. They are going to leave this house as quickly as they entered — all at once."
For Dan, a computer network consultant who works from home, it's a difficult transition as well.
"I thought we got to keep them forever," he said. But, he has realized, "You don't get to keep them forever and this is natural."
Four of the Pisners are at the University of Maryland, about 15 miles away. Elliot left the pack to attend Salisbury University in Salisbury, Md., which is about a 2 1/2 hour drive.
"I just loved their campus," said Elliot, who plans on focusing on management information systems. "I'll admit I'll probably miss them," he said of his siblings, adding with a laugh, "Maybe."
The Financial Burden
Aside from the emotional toll this latest milestone takes on the family of seven, there is also a hefty financial one. While finances have always been a challenge for the family, the cost of sending five kids to college for four years is staggering: It will be about $400,000.
"We can do the first year," said Dan, who estimates their family income to be between $60,000 and $70,000 a year. "But that pretty much wipes us out."
So the kids have applied for student loans, and they will also get jobs on their respective campuses.
A Diverse Bunch
Both Shira and Devin are thinking about majoring in mass communications, while Ian is interested in architecture and Michael in graphic design.
That each child has distinct interests, despite being part of a fivesome, is no accident. Their parents tried to raise them in a way that would foster individuality. For starters, they didn't dress the kids the same when they were young.
"We tried to spend as much time individually as we could," said Pam. "And we tried to encourage their separate interests."
Devin, who was the first-born by 30 seconds, might be described as the troublemaker. Michael, who plays the keyboard and paints is known as the artistic one, while Elliot is labeled the smartest. Shira is the most outgoing sibling, and Ian is known for having the most common sense.
The hardest part about being a quintuplet, they say, is finding privacy.
On the flip side, they also thrive in the midst of the constant tumult in the home they call "Camp Pisner."
"There's always somebody going through the same thing at the same time," says Ian.
"And you always have somebody to talk to," adds Shira. "It's like a friend because they're the same age and you are going through the same problems."
Advice From the Quints
With fertility treatments and multiple births becoming more common, the Pisner kids offered some advice for raising children from multiple births.
"Don't dress your kids alike," suggested Michael.
"Take it one step at a time," said Ian, knowing that his parents did just that. "Don't get too far ahead."
Shira, the only girl in the bunch, said, "Make sure you treat them as individuals."
And Elliot, who is living by his words in attending Salisbury, added: "When it comes to school, don't put them all in the same class."
Pam and Dan said they are probably going to get a dog to ease the loneliness. And, said Pam, they will make sure the kids know "that we love them and that they can come home anytime they want. And I hope they will."
How Are They Doing? An Update
Since this story was originally broadcast on Sept. 26, 2001, the Pisner quints have all made it successfully through their freshman year. Everyone did well. Everyone worked this summer, of course, since money is still an issue.
Devin, who is interested in a career in advertising, will be switiching colleges. Until he decides where to enroll he will live at home.
Pam Pisner says it "won't be the same when the kids leave this year; no tears."
When Barbara Walters interviewed the family in Olney, Md., she suggested one way to get through the 'empty nest' syndrome would be to get a puppy, and get the same breed that she has, a Havanese. The Pisners took her advice, and the newest member of the Pisner family, Kali, is adored by all.