As I write this it is the last night of our vacation. In the morning we will get up early and head home. This will be different though because it will just be my wife and I in the car.
This morning our daughter and her husband and their three children left for home, a thousand miles away. A few days ago my youngest son flew home to return to work. Our other five children couldn’t come because of work. The crowd has diminished from eight to two, now.
Tonight the condominium is quiet. Soft music is playing while I type and Paula reads beside me. My heart is full after making some new memories to recall in the coming years.
We will be home late tomorrow night after a long drive. Two days later my youngest son, 21 years old, will move out of our home to an apartment in town.
Then, it will be Paula, our baby daughter, and myself. In a little over a year our daughter will be leaving for college. Finally, we will officially be empty nesters.
It’s not a bad thing, just part of the cycle of life. For us, it has lasted longer than some as we have seven children. Most of our friends our age said goodbye to their last child a decade ago.
Paula and I were talking this week about the fact that this has been the longest trip we have taken alone since we had children 33 years ago. Now it’s time to get acclimated to a new season of life.
In previous posts I’ve written about how to successfully prepare for the transition to an empty nest.
This means recognizing that releasing our children is inevitable.
Also, it involves recognizing God’s ownership of your children.
It requires being intentional about preparing them to leave home.
This post deals with enjoying each era of life your child experiences; after all, each era is different from a parent’s perspective, also.
Children have the potential to bring us joy. Regarding children, the Bible states that “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…” (Psalm 127:5)
I’ve loved being a father. I’m not saying there aren’t struggles and hard times in parenting. It’s the hardest thing you will ever do. But don’t let the difficulties and challenges rob you of the joy of it all. Each season has some sweetness in it.
Once the years with our kids are gone, they cannot be repeated. We ought to enjoy them while we can. This means being attentive to the present, weighing and appreciating the mundane activities of life; being grateful for the special moments of joy. Remembering them helps to balance the frustrating times.
Perhaps this is why grandparents are so patient with their grandchildren. They have learned what is most important and have learned from their own mistakes in parenting.
Most of us learn to parent effectively after our children are almost grown. Because of that we make a lot of mistakes. One of these mistakes is missing the sweetness of the present. Don’t keep waiting for a better day to appreciate your child. Today is precious.
I made mistakes in this area.
Last year I took Aubrey, our youngest, to get her driver’s license. We had carefully researched to make sure we had all the proper documents, but one of them was incorrect. I was frustrated and after a couple of calls finally got the information.
She passed the test easily. I had purposefully taken Aubrey to get her license because I knew what a rite of passage it was. I wanted to share it with her.
Now, because of time pressures from not having the proper documents we hurried home. I had planned on taking her to a nice lunch, but now I had a pressing appointment.
She was quiet and I apologized to her about not having lunch and told her we were going to have a big celebration that evening. She said, “Dad, you forgot to take a picture of me right after I got my license.”
Oh, man. I felt so bad and apologized again for being so insensitive. (I still feel bad about it). Even though she told me it was alright, it wasn’t. I had messed up a special moment for her. I allowed the pressure of the future to rob her (and me) of a simple, but important memento. An important milestone was not recorded because of my failure to enjoy the moment.
The good news is that I had invested in my daughter’s life for almost seventeen years – including lots of laughter, fun, vacations, ball games, catching her tears, and talking about life. My failure to capture a special moment in her life didn’t derail our relationship because the bulk of our time through the years was so positive.
The quality of the latter years of your child’s life reflect the quality and quantity of the seed sown in the early years. If you enjoy and savor each season of your child’s life – you will enjoy the empty nest much more.
The lesson – care for today properly and tomorrow will care for itself. This includes vacations and getting a drivers’ license.
After all, tomorrow will be here before we know it.
Today my kids are adults; some have their own children. I’m enjoying this era of life, too. Being a grandfather. Watching my children become successful in their work. Remembering when they were babies as we baby sit their children. Enjoying helping them with our grandchildren. Seeing the values that we taught them from God’s Word become realities in their lives as adults.
I have loved being a dad. And I’ll love the rest of my days still being a dad. A dad hopefully that is wiser and more joyful than ever.