The day our kids left for college was almost as life changing as the day they were born. Because the difference in our children’s ages is only fifteen months, the empty nest came abruptly. As soon as we sent our first child away to college (fourteen hours by car), we were making plans to send the second child away one year later. For years, we anticipated this transition in our family. Ron even says he thought about the day the kids went to college on the day they were born. That’s the visionary in him, always thinking ahead. But I’m more of a day-to-day person. Sometimes I did my best to emotionally ignore the approaching reality of our kid’s departure. When the days finally arrived for our children to leave, this mother’s heart grew sad and excited at the same time.
I was excited for the new adventures that awaited them. They were now young adults. No more carpools or volunteering at the Little League snack stand for me. That made me sad. No more curfews for them. They were happy to make their own schedules, coming and going as they please. Ron and I both have fond memories of our college years. We were excited for our kids to grow intellectually, spiritually, and relationally. We were also pleased to see them chase after their dreams and discover their divine destiny.
However, were Ron and I ready for the empty nest? Honestly, for the first couple of weeks it was strange. We didn’t know what to do. The house was quiet. Sometimes we stared awkwardly at each other. Time was ours again. Intentionally, we embraced the opportunity to reconnect as husband and wife. We started praying and dreaming again. “Lord, if You are kind enough to give us another twenty years, what do they look like?” We believe the great adventure of our life and ministry continues. Maybe it’s just getting started.
You might be saying, “I wish my kids would leave!” It’s true that many young adults fail to launch out on their own. The boomerang generation is real. Many of them are back living in their parent’s basement. What’s going on with this generation? Are parents failing to raise their children in a way that makes it easy and natural for them to leave? Are helicopter and lawnmower parents reaping the seeds they have sown in the hearts of their kids — seeds of dependence not independence? In addition to teaching our kids to love God and love people, we must also teach them the value of hard work, thrift, and individual responsibility.
The transition to college is not the only time our kids will leave. Another time is coming, if the Lord wills, when they will both meet someone special and get married. It might seem really strange to mention “leaving and cleaving” in a book about parenting. What does a marriage principle from the book of Genesis have to do with raising kids who love God? More than you think. Part of our job as parents is to get our kids ready to leave … and then let them leave in a way that sets them free to become everything God created them to be.
The empty nest is easy or hard to accept depending on the expectations we allow to rise in our own hearts. Ron and I anticipate the day positively when our kids get married because them leaving and cleaving does not mean us losing. On that blissful day, we gain a daughter-in-law or a son-in-law rather than lose a son or daughter. Besides, there are always grandkids to look forward to. More gain. Stay tuned.
This blog is an excert from an eBook by Dr. Ron and Cathryn Jones called It's Apparent: Plain Talk About Raising Kids Who Love God.