My youngest son and his wife recently came home for a visit. Work obligations and other concerns had kept them away far too long. And my wife and I, in the midst of our empty nest parenting, enjoyed catching up on their lives.
I excused myself to check on something in another room and noticed the clothes hamper, which was overflowing. I had been so busy getting everything ready for the kids’ visit that I had forgotten to do the laundry. My mind flashed back to a memory from several years before.
It was 10:30 PM on a weeknight during my boys’ high school years. Loading the washer with smelly sports uniforms, I almost fell asleep standing up. I looked toward Heaven, and, instead of uttering a poetic prayer, I fired off pointed questions.
Is this what it’s all about, Lord? Is this what my life is supposed to be? Washing stinky uniforms after a full day of work and sporting events, only to do it all again tomorrow?
The still small voice spoke to my heart. It’s only a season.
Processing Empty Nest Parenting
That phrase hit me hard. Hadn’t I already witnessed my sons growing up at warp speed before my eyes?Even though I was exhausted at that point, I dutifully finished the laundry with joy, knowing these days would not last forever and realizing it was a privilege to experience them.
I believe God designed the seasons to give us an illustration of the fluid nature of life. Just as the heat of summer is sure to give way to the crisp days of autumn, so go the stages of parenting.
The infant stage was as sweet as spring, with the smell of baby powder, the snuggles, and the milestones like sitting up and rolling over. Even so, I often looked forward to the next season, thinking, “I can’t wait until they are walking and talking.”
My boys moved straight from crawling to full‐on running, and our house was soon buzzing with lively chatter and nonstop movement. Along the way, I stepped on my fair share of building blocks and small toy cars, wondering, “What will it be like when they go to school?”
Before I knew it, the elementary and middle school grades flew by, and the adolescent years arrived, like winter, with challenges as the hormones raged and my children pulled away, preferring the company of friends (and girlfriends) to dear old dad and mom. The new milestones whizzed through our lives like a blur: high school sports seasons, proms, senior nights, graduation.
Valuing Changing Seasons
The empty nest came faster than I ever thought it would, as both boys went off to college and we, as parents, became spectators instead of active players in their everyday lives. Each one flew back home at different times through the years, but they have finally settled in their own nests, living productive lives—educated, married, and working good jobs. My wife and I don’t see them as much as we would like, but isn’t this changing season the goal of parenting? To release our children into the world as arrows, aiming for God’s calling?
Back to my son’s visit, I looked at the overflowing hamper and reached for it. What would it hurt to do a quick load of laundry? I heard the lively conversation and laughter from the other room and made a quick decision.
Seasons change, but laundry is constant and can wait. I shut the door, leaving the dirty clothes for another day. I chose to soak up every second with my son and his wife while I had the chance.