I’ve got the best sons in the world!
OK, I may be a little bias, but I am incredibly proud of my boys and the young men they’ve become. For the past 20 years they have been the primary focus of my life, along with my wife of nearly 25 years. We’ve worked hard to “train them up” to be men of God and shape them in to responsible, caring, strong and healthy men.
Along the way we’ve done many of the typical things American families do with their kids – school activities, sports, family vacations, etc. I was fortunate to be able to do a lot of the little daily things with the boys, too, like drop them off or pick them up from school – virtually their entire lives. Additionally, we’ve had opportunity to travel the world as a family which stretched their worldview through some pretty unique experiences.
In other words, they came first. Without spoiling them, we always had their interests in mind with every decision we made. I think most parents are like us as much as they can be.
But now, that’s all about to change.
Our oldest son, Taylor, spent half of a gap year in Africa and then went off to college in Chicago. He’s a sophomore now, so he’s been out of the house for almost 2 years.
But we still had our youngest son, Garret, at home as he finished up high school. He graduated last May and has been working and attending Community College this Fall as he prepares for the next big thing in his life.
And that next big thing happens next month. He leaves to spend a year in Brisbane, Australia!
And, with that event, my wife and I become “empty nesters”.
What?!? How did that happen? It seems they were just little boys!
But as they say, “the days are long but the years are short”. And, now, we enter a new phase of our lives as our boys stretch their wings and begin shaping a life apart from us.
Naturally, as this time approaches, it’s been on my mind. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it a lot . . .
What I’m Learning About the Empty Nest as I Let Go of My Sons
1. They were never “mine” in the first place.
It’s easy to be possessive of our children. And, of course, sometimes that’s a good thing as we take responsibility to teach them, care for them, direct them, etc.
But our children are not really “ours”. As parents, we are more like stewards. A steward is someone who cares for something valuable that belongs to someone else. In this case, our children are not our own, but God’s, and He has entrusted us with raising them.
That is an awesome concept. And it’s never been more real to me that right now, as I prepare to let go of my boys and release them in to their own lives. Letting go is oh so hard, but embracing the idea that I’m simply a steward makes it a little bit easier.
2. It’s impossible to truly “hang on” to them.
The truth is, as children grow in to adulthood, it’s really unrealistic and impossible to hang on to them. As much as we will miss our boys being at home, we can’t expect them to stay. Just like you and I were at one time, they are ready to fly. They have their own interests, their own desires, and their own path they must follow.
Hanging on too tightly and having expectations that keep them home (or even near home) are selfish.
I don’t want to be that parent.
3. God is bigger than any fear I may have about their future.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of seeing them go is the fear that goes with it. For their entire lives, I have been their primary protector. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, I have worked very hard to keep them safe.
How will they ever be safe without me?
Having my son spend 5 months in remote parts of Africa went a long way toward teaching me that God is bigger than any fear I may have. Of course, physical safety is always top of mind when it comes to our kids. We don’t want them to experience pain or any sort of injury that would alter their lives for the worse.
But it’s not just the physical. It’s emotional and spiritual damage we want them to avoid also. As they walk in to their future, I continually remind myself that God is bigger than my fears. Much bigger.
4. I’m doing exactly what I’ve been preparing to do for over 18 years.
Isn’t it ironic that our children leaving to begin their own lives is exactly what we’ve been preparing them for, but it may be the single most difficult thing for a parent to actually experience.
Yeah, so there’s that.
5. They are ready to fly.
As I step back and really consider the young men that my boys have become, I realize that they are ready. There is a somewhat satisfying element to that truth because, in reality, it means that we’ve done our jobs as parents, and we’ve done it well.
Satisfying, but I have to admit a little hollow. But so very much better than the alternative which some parents face, and that is the realization that their children really are not ready.
My boys will have their bumps in the road, make those decisions differently than I would, and encounter turbulence along the way, but I am more than confident that they are ready to fly.
6. It’s a matter of trust.
At the end of the day, if I embrace the idea that I am only a steward, and if I believe that we’ve done all we can to prepare them for their lives ahead, then letting go is a matter of trust.
I need to trust them, and I need to trust God.
They will make the decisions that I’ve prepared them to make. And they will make decisions that being their own man leads them to make. And I need to trust that they will make good decisions. Likewise, I need to be available to help whenever they ask, and support them even when they make decisions that I wouldn’t make.
I’ve done my best and I’ve had to trust God in so many ways for over 20 years, so seeing them leave the home is also just an extension of that trust in God. I will have much less input into the lives of my sons in the years ahead, but His involvement in their lives does not change. He is there, and I need to trust.
Yep, here’s one I didn’t see coming! But it’s something that may be one of the great benefits of empty nesting.
Now don’t get me wrong…I will miss my boys and welcome them back into the home anytime they want! But while they are out creating their own lives, my wife and I have freedom to do, well, just about anything we want!
We have time to spend together. We have time to explore new interests. We have time to do things we’ve put off for years. We don’t have school events, games to attend, carpools to drive for, or any of the other things that parents are (gladly!) obligated to.
Of course, those things have been decreasing steadily over the past several years. But when our youngest leaves next month, it’s a whole new ballgame.
If they are going to leave, at least this is a really big perk!
Fellow empty nesters, what have you learned through your experience?
(please comment below)