My parents experienced it, and yours did too. The day comes for all parents when their house empties of the sounds of adolescence. They call us, “empty nesters,” and Brenda and I are there.
By the end of the week, our four bedroom house with the upstairs dormitory will be empty, kid free, and strangely quiet. For more than 26 years she and I, the two who became one, have lived life with at least one other person. With only the rarest of exceptions have there been nights when no children lay head to pillow under the same roof as the two of us.
Beginning with Michael and growing with the additions of Jennifer, Emily, and Jeffery, our house and home out of necessity have centered priorities on those two sons and daughters. Where we lived, when and what we ate, the time we went to bed, the vehicle we drive, and determining a monthly, weekly, or yearly calendar all revolved around the education, activities, and lives of our kids. As a matter of daily life, that time is over. It’s a weird thought to consider.
Neither of us is afraid or anxious. We are curious. We’ve never done this before, and we wonder what it will be like. We’ll know soon enough. Thankfully, the bonding enjoyed by Brenda and me has not resided primarily in the joint task of raising children. Our bond was forged three decades ago, years before a child entered our lives.
We know change is coming. There’s no need to have multiple gallons of milk in the fridge or six varieties of opened cereal boxes. We also know we will need to serve each other more and differently than we have in recent years. Teenage kids do a lot for parents; we will need to do those things for each other.
I find this stage of life odd. There is no formal preparation for it like there is for other monumental points on the timeline. There was pre-marital counseling and birthing classes, but where’s the class on how to be an empty nester? My instinct is we’ve spent the last 26 years raising children while also unwittingly preparing for what begins next week. If I’m mistaken and the years leading up to this week have not prepared us for next week, well, then I guess there’s a sharp learning curve on the horizon.
While I am looking forward to time with Brenda without the interruption of “Mom!” there are some moments I think I will miss – at least in the short term.
I will miss the ride in the minivan to Sunday worship. At the very top of life with our children is the three-mile ride from home to church building. Like every family Sunday morning can be hard, but we figured out how to minimize the struggles. Sunday morning van rides filled with singing and prayer have been a gift to me. I will miss the sound of my children’s voices on a snowy February morning.
I will miss our family dinners. We discovered early on the happiness a family can have at a shared meal. I know it’s not universal in Christian homes, I wish it was, but the laughter and pure joy when Christians gather at a family meal can hardly be duplicated. I think if you asked our kids about some of their most memorable cherished times with their siblings and Brenda and me, they would talk about our dinner table.
I will miss the car rides to and from athletic practices, music lessons, Wednesday children’s programs, and youth activities. I’m telling you, I had some of the best moments with my kids ubering them to whatever the next thing was on the calendar. I suspect Brenda and I have done more parenting with an eye toward the future behind the wheel of a car than at nearly any other time in our lives.
There’s more we will miss, but I don’t want to convey a sense of discontent. I don’t think that’s where we are. The Lord gave us a task to do for period of time. Aspects of that task have come to an end, some remain. Others will become apparent in the days, months, and years ahead. We peer with wonder into the future of what our kids’ lives and ours will be like as time marches on. What we desire for them we desire for ourselves – to be faithful to our Lord, to serve him in every new way, and to trust his sovereignty in our lives. Each of them now lives the remainder of life on the foundation we tried to lay before leaving our home.
If you need Brenda or me, please leave a message. We are celebrating young love.
As always I welcome your comments or any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.