Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I have three children, and two weeks ago today, my youngest child graduated from high school. Last night, we had his graduation party and I had all three of my children together with me for the first time in two years.
I would tell you that I'm experiencing empty nest syndrome, but my nest is far from empty. My second eldest is living here with her boyfriend and attending the local college. My youngest is still here, with his entire entourage until mid-August when he goes off to college (not very far away). So we still have a full house and can beat aces over nines.
Still, I can see them drifting on into their adult lives now. My eldest has just successfully made an offer on a house and he's been married two years. My middle child bought her own new car without help this year. And my youngest no longer needs me to sign permission slips or call the attendance office to get him out of school early. My work here seems to be done. Can grandparenthood be far behind?
I have always been an unconventional parent. When my children were small, I was strict. They had an earlier bedtime than all of their friends. They were forced to mind their manners and be respectful to their elders and to do their homework. As they grew and became capable of managing aspects of their life on their own, I let them try, while I was still there to help them if they fell. At a time when I was granting my children adult privileges, I was also watching other parents attempt to reign in children they had indulged when they were little.
While I know that everyone does the best they can by their children, I can't help but think this is backwards, and I wonder why it happens. Is it because when we are young parents, we are so in love with our children that we can't bear to deny them? Is it only when we see them slipping from our control that we begin to fear for their adulthoods?
In an age where we really can't expect our children to supercede our financial status as much as our own parents wished for us, and our grandparents wished for our parents, what do we wish for our children? We live in a comfortable society where a little hard work can still earn the American dream. As long as you aren't hoping your child is either Bill Gates or Gwyneth Paltrow, your child is going to grow up in a life much like your own.
What do you wish for your child? Me, I know my kids are going to have adult experiences. They are going to live through loss, deprivation, frustration and uncertainty. Life is going to throw them curves whether they like it or not, and I am not always going to be there to field the problem. They are also going to experience great joy, excitement, and grand opportunities.
What I wish for my children is that they have faith. Faith that the world is not entirely bad, no matter what television news tells them. Faith that they are smart enough and strong enough and loving enough to get through the hard parts and to find the joy.
I wish them patience, which is not my own strong suit. The ability to understand that nothing of any import happens right this second, and if you're patient and diligent, you can make your dreams come true.
I wish them wisdom. I want them to hold their breath when they feel impulsive and to look at all the possible outcomes before acting.
I wish them strength. I want them to feel their own personal power and understand how much of their life is within their own control. And how much is not.
And I wish them hope. I want them to know that every time God closes a door, He opens a window. Nothing bad is forever, and everything good is good for eternity. You never know what wonderful things lie right around the corner.
And now, as my children prepare to live their own lives, find their own loves, and have their own children, I contemplate the next step in my own life. My nest will never be empty because the people I love live in my heart, not my home. I look forward to watching them fly.
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