It's not as easy as you think.
These are my two boys. Nearly 26 and 24. Parenting is never easy. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. It's hard. And right now I am preaching to the choir because you know exactly what I'm talking about, no matter what season of parenting you are in now.
As my boys were growing up, I used to tell them and others, "This is my favorite age", whether they were 2 and 4, 7 and 9, or 12 and 14. Maybe you can relate. The older they got, the more they made fun of me saying that. But it really was true. There came a point one day when I reminded them of that statement and told them it was no longer true. They had become young men.
Looking back, there's something very comforting about having kids that are still dependent on you -whether it's to change a diaper, fix them dinner, provide them shelter or drive them to one more soccer practice. I miss those days. But once I couldn't claim them as dependents on my tax return, things changed. Parenting became a whole different ball game. And it's really not my favorite game now.
What do we do as parents when our children are independent or at least we now have a lot less control than we used to? I believe there are 3 things we can do.
1. Focus on Yourself
As a Christian, that may sound counter-intuitive, but I don't think it's un-biblical. Here's what I mean. There is a season for us to focus on the needs of our children. No doubt. But when they are grown (at least physically and legally) that's the point when we need to back off a little bit or maybe a lot. We can do that easier by finding a passion that you can really develop and pursue. It doesn't mean you ignore your children, it just means you re-focus. Which leads me to my second suggestion:
2. Let Them Make Their Own Choices
Like every kid, mine have made some bad decisions. But one of them after my divorce began using drugs. And as the years passed, the drugs became harder and more frequent. At first, I tried to control everything so that he would stop using. I yelled. I pleaded. I did everything I could think of. But there came a point when I knew I had to let him go - and more than once I thought my son was dead.
But I knew I couldn't rescue him or make his choices for him. And by God's grace alone, he got help and is a wonderfully godly father and on the worship team at his church. To speak the words of Andy Stanley, I did what I could do (which wasn't much) and let God do what I couldn't (which was everything). I believe that's true for all of us empty-nesters.
3. Please don't skip over this third one: Pray.
This is not cliche for us as Christians. Praying is our conversation with God - the God who gives us power, wisdom, comfort, and understanding through the Holy Spirit. Prayer is the most powerful and effective thing we can do because it is the way to tap into the most powerful and loving God.
What do we pray for? I can't answer that specifically. Sometimes I pray for conviction. Sometimes I pray for God to show Himself so big and so alive to them. Sometimes I just cry out. What praying does is recognize where the real control is now - with the perfect Father of all. Not with us. And praying to Him is doing our most powerful thing we can do for our children.
Parenting is never easy. But if you are in this independent season that lasts longer than any of the others, sit back and let God remind you of your good parenting moments and cherish them. Pray. Let them make their own choices, good or bad, and go find something fun to do. I'll be right there beside you.