WHEN THE NEST EMPTIES

My wife Victoria is going through something I’ve been through before.
When you decide early in life to have kids, it’s not like joining a club or making a New Year’s resolution. It’s probably THE biggest commitment you’ll make in your life.
Some might say that’s true of marriage, but look around you and count the friends that ended that commitment.
Being a parent is like getting a tattoo: it’s forever. You get to choose the type you’d like to have and over the first dozen years or so, you can help shape how it turns out.
Classes are offered on what to do with new kids, but not on how to handle what happens when you come to the realization they’ve grown up! They go from the helpless years, to the admiring years, to the questioning years and then finally, to the “I know so much more than YOU do” years..which usually hits in the middle teens and last until the late 20’s.
The key for parents is to remember those years when THEY went through them. Yes, times changes and parenting evolves, but I can pretty much remember each of those stages like it was yesterday. Especially the part when I began to understand why my parents did some of the things they did. It was like a logic light bulb clicked on.
Being a parent is scary. From baby monitors to waking out in the street to falling down off a bike to having their heart broken as a teen, you’re always on the lookout for what can go wrong. We also find ourselves put into a very delicate balance between wanting to do everything for them and letting them fall enough to learn.
Of course there were tears when the day came for them to leave. Watching them grow up and sharing in their lives on a daily basis had become an 18-year habit. Letting go of kids that have grown up is harder than quitting cigarettes and I’ve done both, but each is extremely healthy for many reasons.
You’ve spent your life getting them ready to head out into the world, as imperfect as it is. There are people who try to take advantage of them, bosses that will be mean to them, rules they try to bend that will be enforced. But that’s what gets us over the hump into becoming real, actual adulthood.
And if you remember back to when you were 18, that’s all you were out to prove.
As I ride through this lifetime, it’s becoming more and more obvious that experience equals wisdom. That’s why I’ve never been overly concerned about the age thing. It’s those years of living and breathing that have resulted in the set of decision-making abilities and skills that I now possess. It’s why we say, “If I knew then what I knew now.” Every day we remain on this rock makes us more capable to handle what comes our way. Reading offers some knowledge, but doing gives you the foundation.
I watched my two kids leave, one at a time, armed with only what my parenting skills could provide. I’ll never take credit for them, because what they do is entirely up to them. But I’ll always be incredibly proud of how they’ve turned out….which, upon reflection, is the feeling me and each of my sisters ultimately wanted to give to my parents.
To the younger parents reading this, remember–the nest WILL empty someday. Everything you do on a daily basis is what helps make it a little bit easier when it happens.
When that giggly little girl or that toe-headed boy does wander out the door to show the world what they can do, it’s still tough.  But as they settle in to real adulthood and start having their own logic light bulbs flip on, you’ll love the next level of this parenting thing.

Because you’ll always be a parent.

Tim Hunter

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