Joy in an Empty Nest

X0866smSensible children bring joy to their father;
Proverbs 15:20a (NLT)

The house is quiet this morning. Wendy is still asleep. I will likely be leaving the house before she wakes to have coffee with a friend. Across from my home office is Madison’s old room. The bright orange and deep purple walls have been muted by a more gentle color as it has been transformed from teenager’s cave into a guest room. Around the corner, Taylor’s bedroom of Tiffany blue is preparing for its own overdue coat of paint. Another single guest bed is there, but it has become largely a transitional storage room for things we’re not sure what to do with. Her tiny walk-in closet has become storage for seasonal clothes for which there is no room in our own small bedroom closet.

There will be no rumbling and rustling this morning. No muffled fights of two girls fighting over the bathroom, or clothes, or schedules. Mid-afternoon as I work in the office there will be no streak across the hallway as a teenager goes to her room to shut the door and get on their phone with friends. No mumbled “Hi dad.” No family dinner tonight.

The nest is empty. It has been for a few years now. Some days I still find it hard to get used to. Yet, it is good. It is the way of things. It’s all part of the journey.

Those who know both Taylor and Madison can attest to the fact that they are very different ladies who have struck out on very different paths. One still in Iowa. The other in Colorado. One is into art. The other has found an entrepreneurial spirit for business. One married early. The other is single. It has been fascinating to watch our girls strike out on their own respective paths, but they have both been a source of great joy. What emerged out of those teenager-cave bedrooms are sensible, capable and amazing women who are each seeking God’s path in their own way. They both stumble. They both struggle. They face their own unique obstacles. They both make mistakes.

The experience of becoming an empty-nester has revealed to me two unexpected truths:

  1. I experience far more emotional stress and anxiety over my adult children then I ever did when they were teenagers living in my house. I realize now how much I appreciated feeling like the ever present dad who could fix anything for his little girl. I struggle now with feelings of being the impotent father who must look on from afar as they struggle with broken cars, broken hearts and life wounds that are not my place nor in my power to fix.
  2. I experience far more joy than I ever thought possible as I watch them become the women God intends. The first truth is tempered by this one. I read the proverb above this morning and felt it in my soul. My heart whispered, “I know that joy.”

For parents of young children, let this old man share with you one more truth I’ve understood as I now look across the hallway from my office at an empty bedroom. The adults your children become hinge upon the time, love, and attention you invest when they are toddlers and young children. Do not wait. Do not believe that someday you will make up for lost time. Take them on dates. Take a personal day and lay on the couch with them when they are sick. Go to their games. Be patient when they want to avoid you like the plague and be present when they actually want to talk to you. Once they are gone, so is your opportunity.

7 thoughts on “Joy in an Empty Nest”

  1. Oh brother, the advice is timely. Thank you for the encouraging word and the reminder of the fleeting time. Finally, God bless you for your role in raising two amazing women.

  2. 15 A gentle answer deflects anger,
    but harsh words make tempers flare.

    This chapter is loaded with great proverbs, but I couldn’t get past the first sentence. My son and I, as he enters pre-adolescence, can have words at times. We share a short fuse and lack of patience and invariably it erupts in raised voices and harsh words. My wife is the great mediator and on many occasions reminds me to be the adult in the situation. I’ve gotten better over time, but this continues to be my weakest parenting attribute. A gentle answer…..a gentle answer….a gentle answer….

  3. Great entry, Tom. It’s been good in my journey to read about and see a little of yours, since your two girls are a few years older than mine. As a father, you get to experience some of the parenting milestones a few years before I do, so I watch from afar and learn. Thanks for these little glimpses into your experience! I think it’s been the greatest relief to see that you survived a daughter’s wedding. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a wreck on that day. – Craig

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