I think the correct term, these days, is “Empty Nesters.” Whatever you call it, Raelene loves it. Personally, I’m not all that thrilled.
Things are just way too quiet when I come in from the garage at night. I miss the noise of the kids. The wild conversation at the dinner table. The friends coming and going at all hours. I miss the school events, the sports, the activities. I miss knowing about the daily events in my kids’ lives.
That is, until they all come home.
These days, they usually arrive with kids of their own. And, after just a couple of years by ourselves, Raelene and I sometimes feel like the frog who’s been dropped into boiling water. Having the house teeming with people can be quite a shock to these old grandparents.
I try to remind myself of the unique gifts these years bring us. We have more time for conversation, more travel opportunities (without a two-page explanation of schedules for the babysitter), and more time to share with our couple-friends. Our input as parents hasn’t expired; though it has changed. Our kids have become our friends. We get to cheer them on as they face the unique challenges of their own lives. We get to influence rather than advise. We get to pray.
As a young dad, trying to build an orthodontic business, holding a family together, I could never have envisioned these “empty nest” days. I thought they’d never come. But as any “old guy” will tell you, they came faster than I ever imagined. So I’d have to give you the same advice any old geezer would:
Enjoy the journey.
It’s not an original thought, but it’s still true. These days fly by. Though you may be bone-weary, frustrated, fearful, worried, overworked, and underappreciated, take one short moment every single day and make a mental snapshot. Freeze dry that three-year-old kiss. Make a mental CD of that hilarious conversation where your four-year-old explains that “curious” (as in Curious George) is German for “monkey.” Replay that mental video of your six-year-old cartwheeling through the snow—skis flying— on his first trip down the mountain.
These are the treasures of parenting. You must gather them as you can, savor them, and keep them. Ear infections, toothaches, poor work slips, driver-training accidents, and the broken hearts of adolescence will pass. Unfortunately, all of it will pass.
And sooner than you know, you’ll find your house, like mine, just a little bit too quiet. What’s your favorite memory of raising kids?
Dr. Greg Sutherland,
With Bette Nordberg