This past week my wife and I hit a milestone that brought about a new stage of life for us: we became empty nesters.
This past Thursday, Stef and I drove Claire down to Stevens Point for her to officially become a “Pointer.” Our car was packed to the hilt with my wife holding Claire’s comforter on her lap for the trip down. Moving one carefully-placed-item while driving could have caused a premature epic fail. But we got Claire settled in, and now she is embracing a new season of life filled with opportunities and friendships…and even some education.
AJ is married, Court is in Lancaster to continue her third year of college, and now my last is off on a new adventure.
And with that comes new experiences for Stef and I. And it’s time. We are for sure going to miss having the girls around the house with all their laughter and speaking to each other in movie quotes. But it just feels like it is time. I sense a little bit of restlessness in my girls as that natural independence starts to develop and they are ready to try some life on their own.
It is a sweet process to watch. Part of my own personal mission statement embraces this very thing: to support my kids and provide the necessary training for them to live life successfully without me.
It’s what I want for them. And I have no regrets. As a broken dad in need of Jesus, I have been reminded time and time again that it is GOD who has got them to this point of embracing the Gospel and readying them for unique experiences that lie ahead.
You know, when they were younger, life was about managing their lives. I have the image of walking through a mall, my toddler kids full of life, and me, at times, having to place my hand on their heads and steer them left and right to where we were going.
I admit, as a parent, there were times when it was hard to transition out of that role. And God had to come along side me and remind me that the tension between me and my kids was more about my trying to manage their spiritual lives than about their behavior.
Grace. Love. Forgiveness. I never learned these more than as a parent. In my passion to “make them look like Jesus,” I had forgotten that as God has overwhelmed me as His son with His love and grace and forgiveness, so now I must overwhelm my own kids with the same.
And as an empty nester now, I have come to realize something quite marvelous that I shared with my wife the other day. And it is this – that my kids are really now more my friends than my kids.
Sure, they will always be my kids, and I would give it all for any one of them, but as I transition to more of a coach or guide in their lives, I am also realizing that I am truly blessed to call them my friends.
There will certainly be a unique status as dad that I would never change, but I am also embracing the fact that we have more than that – we have a friendship.
I admit, I still have temptations to “manage” things for my kids, but I am also being given the discernment and grace by God to not do that to them (as much!). I am more and more becoming a resource for them, to use as they desire.
Life is not so much conversing about homework and what’s due anymore. We are talking about life and life decisions. The “conversation stakes” have been raised. They are offering valuable opinions and insights, making observations and giving responses that are helpful to consider.
There was not a date and time this happened with my kids, but with each it has happened and is happening. It is a gradual transition. And I have to say I like it. It is a priceless thing to hear my son now giving me counsel or advice on things in my life. And it is pretty epic to not have to remind my girls, “Hey, don’t forget to love Jesus at college!” They are already seeking out solid churches and desiring to surround themselves with friends who will strengthen them spiritually.
As I listen to my kids, they tell me things going on in their lives and I think, “Wow, I wish I had that kind of discernment and maturity at your age.”
I will always be a father to my kiddos, but I am content moving into a stage of true trust, love, and a new type of respect for each other.
It is the stage of friendship, and I am both humbled and grateful to share it – I really think I am going to like it.