Dave and I are in an awesome phase of parenting – empty nesters.
Most parenting begins at the same place: infants and toddlers. The most basic job a parent has in this stage is to keep the children alive. Somedays it feels like herding cats.
I remember the day I came upon my youngest daughter with the baby powder container. She was covered from head to toe as she continued to sprinkle the powder into her hands and rub it on her legs looking at me with the most innocent of faces. She smelled delightful. So did my carpet.
Or the day I found my son with the box of tampons. He was patiently opening each one and pulling them apart. It was a tedious task. No wonder he was so quiet.
And how about the time I discovered my toddler picking her nose at night and rubbing it on the wall. At least she wasn’t eating it, right? Eventually I just papered over the booger covered wall. I couldn’t wash them off.
At this stage of parenting, adults are the strong human leaders of the littles. We dress them, point them in the right direction and hope they don’t get their clothes dirty or a hole in their pants before we get to where we are going.
And so they grow. The issues change over the next stages of growth and development, but certainly parents are needed to provide boundaries, listen to heartbreak stories, pick up pieces when they fall, hold them back when they are on the precipice of disaster.
Then, somehow, we find ourselves with nearly grown children. They still sleep at home at night, but they drive, earn money, make decisions and those inevitable words begin to loom on the horizon – EMPTY NESTERS. Because this is the ultimate stage of parenting.
This is where Dave and I find ourselves. We are genuine empty nesters. Two of our children are married, one is engaged to be married but has lived on her own for a couple of years. They are gainfully employed, owning homes and cars and all things necessary for independent living. Suddenly, we find ourselves with a lot of space.
This is not a bad thing. It is different. And it brings it’s own challenges. We are still parents, but now we are parenting adult children. In this wide open space of parenting, the rules of engagement change. We no longer set boundaries for our children. We don’t remind them to come home on time, or put away their clothes. We don’t provide an allowance or take away their car keys if they misbehave.
There are times when we watch them struggle but we aren’t invited to participate either in word or action. These children of ours are building their own homes, with their own children and stepping out of the way so they can do that is difficult. No one said it would be so hard.
At the same time, it is also rewarding. It is a blessing to watch our children struggle and succeed. Just like the butterfly coming out of the cocoon, there needs to be a little struggle to build strong wings. Difficult to watch, yes. Necessary, yes.
Eventually, they say the roles reverse and our children will begin to parent us. I witnessed that with my husband’s parents who both passed away. Indeed, there may come a time when we need assistance from our children. But, to my children I say, it’s not yet!
Where are you in this journey called parenting? Perhaps you have not begun. Some will decide not to take this road, others strive with no success. No matter where you find yourself right now, enjoy the journey. Maybe you are in the midst of diapers and late night feedings, toddler activity or adoloscent angst, high school drama, post high decisions or empty nesting – every stage has it’s highs and lows. And virtually every stage will pass to the next one like the changing of seasons. Sometimes roughly, other times without much notice.
Two words come to mind that I would like to put before you regarding parenting.
Consistency and Respect
One of the most difficult aspects of character development for me was consistency. Tedium sets in when a parent continues to encounter the same obstacles day after day. And it is tempting to just throw your hands in the air and say, “Who cares!” But you care! I cared! We will never be sorry if we remain consistent with our children.
The best and most profound advice I received regarding child rearing came from a cousin. One afternoon as we talked about successfully raising children, I asked her what she does. She said, “I respect them.” I went silent.
Respect is to esteem someone, to recognize their sense of worth and excellence. And your children deserve your respect. There is no greater gift than to look at your child and esteem and value their worth and the excellent traits they bring into the world. This simple advice changed the way I saw my children.
Stay tuned this week as I sort through the boxes of childhood memories and share anecdotes of parenting. If you aren’t a parent yet or the journey to parenting has been wrought with difficulty, my heart goes out to you. That is so discouraging and I honor you as you take next steps in the process.
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26