It changed last Christmas. He came home for two weeks of leave from the Navy. It was the longest we had him home for two years.
Around the same time he left home I went through many other major life changes. It began one of the hardest times in my life. A time that continues today. When it came to my son my emotions were out of control. I lived and breathed for the next phone call and visit. My life was a mess.
I prayed that God would help me get over this. I know I will always miss my son, and cherish the time I had with him, but I can’t live like this. I can’t live my life based on the next phone call. I don’t want to cry anymore, and be so sad. Please God deliver me from this.
At Christmas, however, something happened.
I could see he was a visitor in our home.
He wasn’t a part of us anymore.
He was taking a break from his life to be a part of ours.
He wasn’t a part of our everyday life.
He was respectful, but has his own opinions.
He watched and participated, but planned for his own life.
A transition had happened, it was finished.
I saw that he wasn’t meant to be a part of us anymore. He was on his own.
It’s what helped me see that at the end of his visit he needed to go. There was tension with his siblings. They were all changing, becoming their own person.
It was a relief when the visit was over. Not because I didn’t want to see him but because it had become awkward and he just wasn’t our little boy anymore who lived with us. He is a man who lives on his own.
I am thankful for God showing me this, and helping me to see that his place is where he is. I pray that as my other children leave and start their own lives that God will show me the same with them.
It’s hard to imagine when you hold your son or daughter that a day might come when you won’t be a part of their everyday lives. When they will just call, text or email. When the time you spend together will be visits, not everyday of each others lives.
If I could go back and talk to myself 20 years ago I would give myself this advice:
- Stayed grounded in God’s Word. This will help you keep God and Christ as your focus, not your children.
- No matter what maintain an active prayer life. This will be key to the changes that are coming in your life. It will be key to living through them. Develop the habit early and maintain it.
- Keep your marriage a priority. I know there are diapers, colds, birthday parties, errands, school activities, and a million things to do, but that will all end one day. Your marriage will need to keep going. If you keep your marriage a priority over the children then when they leave your relationship will be strong, and you will look forward to enjoying the empty nest together.
- Don’t forget about you. As Christians we don’t want to be self centered, but we do need to develop who we are. God is working in our life to grow us and make us more like Him so it is natural to grow and develop as a man or a woman. We need to have our main identity in Christ, and an identity as unique creation of God. This means have friends, read books, travel, and develop yourself into the person God made you to be.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. My mom told me once that I shouldn’t frett so much about the house being clean and tidy all the time. She said there will be time for that later when the kids leave. I didn’t listen. I spent too much time fretting the small stuff. Shoes laying out, laundry not getting done, and worrying about money all the time. She was right. I should have spent more time in the yard playing with the kids, making mud pies, making memories and just having fun.
Parenting is hard. The day my two oldest left home felt like the day the real hard part of parenting started. When we let go because they don’t need us as much and we watch them start their own lives.
To all parents struggling as they enter the empty nest I say hold fast to God. This can be a difficult time in our lives, and a wondrous time. Where our priorities shift, we rediscover ourselves, our spouse and the life that God is making for us.
To parents with children still at home I say enjoy the time you have with your children. Prepare them to live their lives, and prepare yourself to live yours.
In need of God’s strength, and thankful for His abounding grace,