Reflections of a soon-to-be empty nester

Reflections of a soon-to-be empty nester

My youngest son’s graduation from college is about two weeks away.  Looking forward to that has given me time to reflect on raising our sons as one is in the workforce and the other is about to enter the workforce.  I was reading a book recently a guy wrote about his 50 years in ministry.  In the book, he identifies ten things he would have done differently and ten things he would have done the same.  Given we are in a short parenting series at KCC, I thought I would do the same for my parenting.  Not ten, but some things I would have done differently and some things I would do the same.  

Here they go.  Let’s start with the do differently list:

  1. Had more focused conversation at the dinner table about spiritual matters.  From, “What are some nice things you observed kids doing today at school?”  To, “What are some nice things you did for kids or how did you see God work today?”
  2. Prayed together as a family.  I always took time to tuck the boys in and prayed with them right up to high school graduation.  However, we didn’t take as much time, other than at meals, to pray together as a whole family.
  3. Said “no” to some good things in order to spend more time with the boys.  In Indianapolis, I had some generous friends and bosses that would give me tickets to Colts’ games and Pacer games.  Whenever I went, however, it meant leaving the family behind.  Spending more time with them and saying “no” to some cool experiences, would have been worth it.
  4. Developed some hobbies to do with the boys.  We played games a lot, played outside a bunch, but we don’t have a “thing” that we do together like fishing, hiking, cycling, golf, tennis, etc.
  5. I wish I had prayed more for them to go into ministry.  I wanted them to use their gifts and talents, but selfishly, my prayers were that they would find a good occupation that kept them from struggling financially like I did early on in life.

And here is the “things I would do the same” list:

  1. At a young age, the boys were serving in the church.  Andrew was running a soundboard like the one we have here at about age 12.  Sam worked with kids because he loves to play and organize games.
  2. We were always a part of a life group and the boys would be right there with us either playing with friends, singing with us, and definitely eating with us.  That early exposure to a small group will serve them well as they continue their adult journey with Jesus.
  3. In elementary school we let the boys choose one organized sport per year.  We didn’t want the sports schedule to run our family’s life.  They both chose basketball and I was able to coach each of their teams and had a great time together.  The other sports they picked up in the backyard with the neighbor kids and I got to be an all-time quarterback.  
  4. Video games played a VERY small part in our home.  The boys always bought their own consoles they saved up for.  But, when the weather was good, they were outside being active and we limited the time and which games they were allowed to play.  I have met a number of 30+-year-old men who sit in their basement playing video games ignoring their wives and kids.  Not a good recipe for a healthy family.
  5. At 13 I took each of the boys on a trip they would enjoy.  On the trip I talked with them about being a man of God and what that looks like in our society.  We had a great time, good talks, great food, and hopefully a memorable experience.

I could go on and on with both lists.  My wife might have a completely different list.  She is the best mom (and no she is not looking over my shoulder as I type this) and was very attentive to the boys’ needs.  Nobody can prep a kid for a spelling test like Lisa Bratton.
I guess my point in this article is to say that we all do things we would do all over again and things we wish we had done differently.  I wanted to share because I learned from others about their parenting style and thought maybe you could take away something, good or bad, from what I learned about raising our boys.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and then when he is old he won’t easily part from it.”  We can’t save our kids, but we can train them so when they are faced with difficult decisions, the right way will be instilled in them.