Empty nest prompts advice for moms, dads

Day by Day: Empty nest prompts advice for moms, dads

By LIZ THOMPSON

January 27, 2020
This Week News

One spring, I watched an adult male robin and a young male robin as they hopped in my yard, pecking at the ground.

I noticed the larger robin was leading the smaller one – obviously papa and son.

I was fascinated. I had never seen that obvious action of teaching in nature before. I wondered how long it took the mama bird to push him out of the nest, and then the papa took over the teaching so he could survive.

Papa’s role had changed; he no longer brought worms to the nest for the babies.

That’s what we want for our children – not so much the worms but the learning and growing. We care for our children when they are young and cannot care for themselves.

As parents, we do our best to teach them by example and in all the ways anyone learns anything. We encourage their talents and provide opportunities as we can. We gradually nudge our children out of the nest so they will learn independence and live the lives they were meant to live apart from us.

The door always is left open with a soft place to land, no matter their age or place in life.

But the day comes when they fly the coop and we wave goodbye, helpless to stop time. A mixture of sadness, pride, love and hope rises within when we comprehend we have been working toward this day since they were born.

The time with them has moved far too rapidly, we realize, as we blink away tears.

My husband and I became empty nesters in 1995. All three children were grown and out on their own. When our youngest, Mary, waved goodbye to us after her wedding, I was told it was OK to cry.

But I said I was fine and very happy for her. She had married a nice man whom we loved.

The moment I landed in the passenger seat of our car to go home, I burst into tears.

How had time moved so fast?

I recovered on our drive home. I reminded myself again how happy we were for her.

Later that evening, I walked into our bedroom and found a framed picture of Mary with us, taken when she was about 3 years old.

A letter had been placed next to it.

As I read the letter, my hands shook with emotion and the tears once again fell. She was thanking us for being her parents.

The litany of mistakes I’d made over the years could have canceled out her loving words. So often I felt that I had messed up and had done things wrong as a parent.

If I could do it again today, I would do things differently. This same daughter went on to successfully homeschool all three of her children, and now she’s on the verge of being an empty nester, too.

That day, in 1995, as I read and reread her letter and then shared it with my husband, the old regrets melted away.

The letter is still tucked behind the photo. I have shared it with a few close friends, and each time, the tears return.

A quote from the book “Live and Learn and Pass It On” – described as “a collection of wisdom from people aged 5 to 95″ – states, “I’ve learned that simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.”

Pastor and author Gordon McDonald agrees: “All effective fathers learn the importance of a wise and flexible response to their children’s calls for attention. No busy signals here. No hold button.”

That also holds true for mothers, stepparents, grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents or any adult in a child’s life who can offer the simple things to our children that involve time.

Talk and listen, cook, read, laugh and solve problems together.

Help with homework and attend their sports games, plays, concerts, art shows and science fairs.

Show up. Be present.

As ordinary people, we can show extraordinary love as we see each child as a unique gift, pecking his or her way through life, looking for an example.

Mental image of rainbow still inspires

Day by Day

Mental image of rainbow still inspires

By Liz Thompson
This Week News
January 28, 2019

“The work can wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.” –Patricia Hart Clifford

When living in Arizona, as I drove to work, the mountains and open sky surrounded me as I moved down the flat highway. I remember one day in particular when the rain fell lightly on my windshield and the sun shone brightly.

A rainbow appeared as vivid as one drawn by a child with wax crayons. Because of the expanse, I easily could see the beginning and end without swerving as I drove.

Twenty-four years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.

No one at work seemed as awed by the sight. But such rainbows were not unusual for those who had lived in Arizona for years — some for a lifetime.

Here in Ohio, if I want to see a rainbow from my home, I step outside while it is raining and the sun is shining and look to the east. Sometimes I am blessed with the sight, even if the trees and buildings block some of its glory.

I enjoy the possibilities.

Patricia Hart Clifford’s quotation above made me think of that morning in Arizona. I think of the wonder we can show our children. The possibilities.

In this day of electronic devices in our pockets almost all the time — or at least nearby — it might be easy to be so distracted that we miss the beauty of a rainbow’s colors and shape.

We can look up a multitude of photos on the internet on those same phones and say, “How beautiful!”

But the photos would be missing the expanse, the grandeur. I prefer to step into the fresh air or gaze out a window and look up, not down at a tiny screen.

Cellphones were not common in 1995. When I saw that rainbow in Arizona, had I the ability to stop the car to snap a photo, it would have been lacking.

Instead, my mind captured it — and no one can erase it.

Giving time to our children is more important than just about anything we can offer, outside of food, clothing and shelter. Teaching them to think and wonder and dream is a gift they will always have, even on dreary days with no rainbows. Daydreaming would be a wonderful distraction for our children — as long as it’s not during school.

Recently, one of my brothers was telling our mother that it seemed children didn’t play outside as much as we once did. I told her I remember washing my feet before crawling into bed on summer days.

When I do hear a child playing outside and hear the shrieks of delight in play, it makes me smile. An elementary school is a couple of blocks from our house. On some days, I can hear children during recess laughing and obviously having fun.

If a rainbow or interesting cloud formation appears in the sky, at least they are in a position to be able to look up and wonder. I hope the teachers would make a point of showing and encouraging them to daydream.

Our days do seem to be so busy. I remember when our children were young and I worked outside the home. It was difficult to fit everything into a day and have time to spend with our children.

We had an advantage that is now gone, unless parents take the initiative: We had fewer distractions. No cellphones. No computers. Landline phones with one line. If someone was on the phone, the others in our family had to wait their turn. Someone calling in would get a busy signal, not voicemail.

Now I sound like my parents or grandparents sounded when I was young. “When I was your age, we didn’t have … ”

“We had to walk to school uphill, in the snow … ”

Many things from our past are worth holding onto. We still have only 24 hours in each day. But we can make each moment photo-worthy.