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Advice From an Experienced Parent: Five Things Empty-Nesters Never Say

August 20, 2014 • Kim Sullivan


Many of my children's friends are now married and having babies. Lately, as I held a newborn, one new mother asked for some advice from an experienced parent. Of course there is all the practical advice about diaper brands, nursing vs. bottles, and which baby monitor works well, but I wanted to concentrate on the more important matters of raising a child in a way that gives them every chance to become a godly person. In so doing, I reflected on conversations I've had with my empty-nester friends.

Here are five things I have never heard an empty-nester say:

1. I wish I had spent less time with my kids.

Even those of us who have home-educated our children and have had them around 24/7 don't feel this way. Those families who have done well with family time still wish they could have spent more individual time with their children. Family time establishes a corporate code and clanship, and individual time helps a child to distinguish how they are unique and called as an individual to greatness.

2. I wish I had freaked out more.

Some of the most regrettable memories I have are those when I was impatient with my family about things that really didn't matter. Improperly made beds, spilled milk, and imperfections are not reason for losing tempers. In fact, if our children lost their tempers over such things with their friends or siblings, we would correct them. If I had to do it over again, I would live out the saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff...and it's almost all small stuff" in every room of the house.

3. I wish I had prayed for my children less.

Being a parent is very time consuming. It is easy to wake up distracted! But one of my heroes in the faith, Martin Luther, once said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Making sure that you are filled up with personal devotion time can be like putting on spiritual glasses to see the events of your day with spiritual eyes. Without that time in God's Word and Heavenly conversation, we allow our schedule to determine how we view the day rather than being led by the Holy Spirit. Another powerful way to implement more prayer time for your children is to sneak into their rooms while they are sleeping and lay hands on them speaking a blessing into their life.

4. I wish I had taught my kids to eat less healthy.

This one might seem more trivial than the others. However, so much of our adult life is spent on dieting, exercising, or learning to be healthy, I wonder how much more time we would have to devote to godly pursuits without this relearning process. Recently I found myself telling a young person to enjoy an unhealthy dinner and dessert while they were young and thin. Immediately, I was convicted. Why should I encourage poor eating habits to someone knowing how much harder it will be to discipline their body later?

5. I wish I had my kids more involved in extra-curricular activities and less involved in church.

This is a big one! So many of my friends became ridiculously involved in running their children here and there to activities that were good but not best. As each of our children's gifts and talents became evident, my husband and I would prayerfully choose activities that would groom them in their interests and gifts. Many times these opportunities came in serving at our local church. One of my sons is a gifted leader, and at the age of 16 he was the director of a group of young puppeteers who ministered in parks and nursing homes. My other son was interested in techy things. He ended up being the sound technician for our children's department at age 13. He even had several adults under his leadership! My daughter has the voice of an angel, and was the youngest worship leader in our adult services. Our focus as a family was service to the Body of Christ. God made the best use of their service by training them in each of their futures.

Deut. 11:18-21 (NIV) states, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them in your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that The Lord swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth."

A few years ago, my oldest son interviewed my mother. One of the questions he asked her was, "What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?" Her answer humbled me, "That I raised a daughter who is passionate for the cause of Christ." As a parent, I will not stand before Heaven's throne regarding perfectly made beds, running to sporting events, or even perfectly behaved children. What I will be held accountable for is to provide opportunity for my family to watch me walk out my beliefs in a tangible way, ultimately placing their hands into the hands of a Savior.


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