My wife and I love the “Empty Nest.” From the time we started planning to have children we began planning for the time when they would leave home to be out on their own. Our children grew up being told when they graduated from high school they would have to choose — join the military, go to college or get married. Whatever their choice, staying home was not one of them — or at least that is what I told them.
One day, when both girls were just out of their car seats, my wife and I were talking about what kind of car we wanted to get for ourselves when the youngest graduated from high school. Suddenly, our oldest began crying. When we asked what was wrong, she responded, “There is no back seat. Where am I going to sit?” Exactly.
Planning for the empty nest, however, was more than just figuring out what we were going to do after the girls were gone. It was preparing the girls to be on their own. It was giving them opportunities to enjoy their youth with memory-making experiences. Significantly, it was taking advantage of those times when we could spend quality time together so they knew confidently they were loved and they were each important as individuals.
They have been out on their own for a few years now. Oh, the freedom. We can eat at any restaurant without wondering if there is a children’s menu. No more teenagers asking for the keys to the car. No more having to work our social calendar around the endless activities of our children. No more long discussions (arguments?) over the importance of having a clean bedroom and we have smaller electric and water bills.
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Yes, the children are grown and out on their own. And, as fun as the empty nest might be, I must admit that I miss my kids. I didn’t realize how quickly time would fly by as they matured.
I have often asked myself whether or not I took advantage of every opportunity to spend quality time with my daughters. I know there were times when I could have done better.
The advent of holidays such as Washington’s birthday and Presidents’ Day causes me to remember weekends I spent with my wife and daughters. When possible we would try to go on a short vacation trip somewhere or at least find a way to spend quality time together through the weekend. I also think back and wonder if I took advantage of every opportunity. Did I ever miss a chance to get to know my children better while giving them a chance to get to know me better as well?
Those times are over. My girls have become beautiful young women who are living their own lives and pursuing their own dreams. My wife and I are now seeing the seeds of our own plans and dreams from years ago begin to sprout. What makes these dreams exciting is that we are enjoying them together.
The older I get, the more I value quality time with those I love. I don’t ever want those I love to wonder if I love them. I don’t want to miss a chance to strengthen and deepen relationships with my family. I want to make the most of weekends and holidays so I can make new memories instead of new regrets.