Family Legacy Readers: This week we asked our dear friends Bill and Jo Ellen Knight to discuss the so-called “empty nest syndrome.” They are uniquely qualified to do this – they’ve raised three godly kids who are now wonderful spouses and parents. When Christine and I aren’t sure how to parent (which is often!), the Knights are who we ask! As the Lord is preparing our own family for this stage, we thought we’d ask the experts: “How do you handle your kids growing up and leaving you with an ’empty nest?'”
Anyone who has had a conversation lasting more than 10 minutes with me knows my 2 favorite subjects are my amazing husband and wonderful kids and grandkids.
The empty nest season like all of the seasons of our lives has positive and negatives.
Bill and I decided to write our own version of the “empty nest” years because a Mother’s feelings are definitely different than a Father’s reflection.
The negative for me was that I missed seeing them every day.
I am thankful God allowed this season to be a gradual process. Since He obviously knows me well, He knew my emotional nature would have a difficult time telling my kids good bye for their college years.
When we left David at Tech, he asked that we tell him good bye in the parking lot; kid knows his mom and didn’t want a scene. The girls and I were pretty teary eyed driving back to Denton, but in the days to follow as always my wise husband gave me some great advice. He said this is what we trained him for; to be a confident individual ready to move on to the next season for him. I missed hugging him every day. David told me in a very nice way that he would call me on Sundays to tell me about the week (translated: “Please don’t call me every day for Heaven’s sake!”).
I was involved in soccer and volleyball with Katherine and Joanna, so the loneliness quickly passed and was replaced with new and exciting days for them. His absence was replaced with the pride of watching him excel and become the man God had envisioned.
When Katherine left for UT there was a different sadness because she and I talked about everything. Of course, that didn’t change and to this day we talk pretty much every single day; sometimes twice. She came home often to see Joanna’s senior year of volleyball and she was dating a Denton boy. I was again reminded that this had been my goal as a parent; to raise a compassionate, honest, hardworking daughter. She excelled academically, as well as touching people that God brought into her life.
When Joanna left for school, once again like the Beverly Hillbillies, we ALL drove to Brownsville to take her to UT . I knew my last baby was off to school. David and Katherine both said it was ok if I wanted to cry in the back seat headed home. They knew that was a given. The loneliness for her quickly passed as we saw what God was doing in her life as she began her road to becoming a Christian young woman filled with joy. God was faithful to make my process of missing the kids gradual and always gave Bill wisdom to help me see the positives of the empty nest season. It is truly rewarding when you see your children become honest, diligent, compassionate students, employees, husband, wife, mothers, fathers.
I have been able to claim this verse “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth.” III John 1:14.
So many positives about the empty nest years, but at the top of the list is spending time with my sweetheart (hard to accomplish with 3 busy kids). We have been able to go on several romantic vacations.
Always stay connected to your spouse emotionally and physically even when you are busy with children. Your spouse is always your priority. Focus on their needs and when you are in the empty nest years you will continue to be connected.
Another positive is healthy foods in the house and not the junk foods needed when feeding the entire soccer or volleyball team. My pantry normally looked like locust had just swept through the house. The kids still laugh today about the hiding places I kept in my closet for snacks in order to make them last for more than one day.
It is rewarding to see how grateful our children are for the unconditional love and provision we provided. They certainly don’t take anything for granted.
When Pastor Jim asked us to contribute to the blog concerning the “empty nest syndrome”, my first thought was, “What empty nest?” When we started having children, Jo Ellen and I soon realized the reality of Psalm 18:21 that, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” We made a conscious decision that we would not give place to “Sibling Rivalry”, the “Terrible Twos”, or “I’m like that because all of us (fill in family name) act that way.” As our kids grew older, we also refused to embrace the term “empty nest syndrome.”
Now, I don’t mean to indicate that when your children leave home to start life on their own that it is easy. You pray that you, as a parent, have given them the necessary tools to be successful in the path that they have chosen, to be a good wife/husband, mother/father. But I always did think that all we did for them was to teach them to move out and live on their own. I certainly didn’t want them living at home when they were 30 years old, in their room playing video games!
I think it boils down to relationships. Husbands and wives need to build a relationship of devoted love, but also friendship. I like spending time with Jo Ellen exclusively and not having to share her with our kids. Also, I will let you in on a little secret: if you have a good relationship with your kids, they never really leave home. All three of ours have moved back home for brief periods of time after they graduated from college. We knew that they weren’t moving back for good, that it was just a temporary arrangement. But, during those times, it was great having them back and relating to them in a different way. We weren’t raising them; they were responsible for their own decisions and actions. We could just be friends and enjoy them.
All of our kids are married and have their own kids. They are all responsible adults, good husbands, good mothers, and good employees. Their mom did a fantastic job with them! We still get together often and have some great times.
What “empty nest syndrome”?