What I’ve Learned About Parenting Since My Kids Left Home

By Kathy Pollard

Neal and I became official empty nesters in late June 2018. I knew it would take time to adjust to the new norm. I anticipated moments of sadness because it all went by way too fast. And I had already been warned that you never stop worrying about your kids. What I didn’t expect was that I would learn some significant things about parenting. Here is what I know now that I wish I knew then.

Family traditions are important, but maybe not the ones you think. There were some traditions we intentionally created. We had nightly devotionals with our boys. We had the same breakfast every Christmas morning. The birthday boy always got to choose what was for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thought that was pretty much how traditions were made, but now I know it was more than that. Anytime our sons come for a visit, I try to make some of their favorite dishes. Recently, one of them said, “Did you use a different peanut butter or something in that icing?” I had. Also recently I made a chocolate cake and one of our sons put his slice in the fridge to eat later. I asked him if he thought it tasted better chilled. He said, “No, that’s just how you always used to serve it so that’s how I want to eat it.” They don’t want me to change things up because it’s just not the same. This tells me that family traditions don’t necessarily have to be so planned. They are created in the daily living that goes on in the home. One of our intentional traditions was watching “A Christmas Carol” (George C. Scott version!) every Christmas Eve. We found out none of them even liked that movie. 

There is no such thing as too much communication. We home schooled our boys and I was a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps I assumed those two choices would’ve guaranteed plenty of openness and watchfulness. I thought I was pretty aware of all that was going on in their lives. Now that they’re on their own, our sons have been sharing stories of their shenanigans while growing up. My reaction is often, “You did what?!” In fact, one of our sons used the word “clueless” to describe my parenting. Ouch. He wasn’t even being mean because he was laughing so hard when he said it. In addition, I’ve heard our sons refer back to times of sadness or emotional struggles. My heart aches to know I wasn’t even aware of some of them. I want to rewind the clock and have a do-over. I want to have a heart-to-heart with the young mom I used to be. Truly, it is so important to do whatever it takes to develop closeness, trust, and openness.  Take the time. Put down the phone. Keep your eyes open. Have the conversations. 

God helps fill in the gaps. I knew there were aspects of parenting that I could and should have done better. And now I can add to that list as I’ve learned of other areas where I dropped the ball. But as I look at my sons today I can’t help but thank God for His goodness. He loves them even more than I do and always will. I wasn’t a perfect parent but I was a praying parent. God always saw the big picture and helped my boys along. I have never been more thankful for His grace. I am thankful for the love and grace from my sons, too. Perhaps you feel like you are falling short or have made mistakes. Just keep trying and loving and going to God’s Word for guidance. He only wants you to do the best you can to turn the hearts of your children over to Him.

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