25 Years of Parenting and All I Get is this Empty Room

25 Years of Parenting and All I Get is this Empty Room . . .

My youngest daughter just moved out of the house.  Gone.  Just like that.  As her first year of college closed out this May, she decided to take up residency with her boyfriend.  He’s a peaceful young man.  I like him.  So does my wife.  More importantly, my daughter likes him more than I know.

Their “palace” is a bedroom and bath in a shared apartment in South San Clemente.  It’s a short walk or bike ride to the beach, which is nice since they both love the ocean.  The summer sunsets will be amazing.  Hand-in-hand, they will walk bare-foot along the beach just like my wife and I have done for years.

As I helped them take out her dresser from the room (the final piece of furniture to leave our home) I noticed how empty this once busy and cluttered space had become.  The closet that was once filled with her clothes, clothes that I laundered for 25 years, was now filled with my business suits, casual shirts and coats.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/anthonyrosenberg

The walls that once were home to her funky artwork and posters and her cork board pinned with articles and photos and to-do lists are now bare…almost quiet.

I placed the guitars that I play daily in the room.  The solitary chair I sit on seems so small and lonely in the place where her exotic Tiger-eye bamboo bunk bed once stood so tall.

You can actually see the floor now; and step wherever you like without dancing around the clothes and books and laptop and all the other things that most teenagers and young adults leave mindlessly out of place as they busy themselves in their lives.

Now, as I look into this room, which is no longer my daughter’s bedroom, I smile, knowing that this empty place is now my confirmation; I have succeeded as a father.

How did I succeed?  Well, my definition of success might differ from other parent’s definitions.  But this is why I feel I succeeded:

  • Independence.  My daughter has fully embraced her independence.  She is secure in herself, knowing that this is the first part of her life’s journey now that she is gone from the house of her father.
  • Confidence.  She was crystal clear on with her decision to move out on her own with her boyfriend.  She was bold and thoughtful as she explained to me why it was the right decision for her to make, even though I told her that I wasn’t in total agreement with her decision.
  • Respect.  My daughter greatly appreciated the fact that I respected her decision and her adulthood.  It would have been easy for me to suffocate her with my opinions; burden her with a misplaced guilt; bribe her to stay home with promises of money and possessions or actually attempt to forbid her to move out.
  • Love.  There wasn’t any change in the love that we share.  My daughter actually feels more secure in our love because it isn’t tied to any unwanted or unrealistic expectations that would minimize her journey’s growth.

I am happy that my daughter moved out.  She knows I’ll always be there for her in times of crisis and need.  She knows I’ll always be there to share ideas and talk about the future that stands before her.  She knows that I’ll always be there to hold her hand and kiss her face when she needs her father’s love and support.

She knows that I’ll always be there…ALWAYS!

So . . .

Are you an “Empty Nester?”

How do/did you feel when your last child moved away from home?

How has your relationship with your child changed?

 

– Chris

Chris

About Chris

Surf’s Up! It is amazing that I’ve been surfing for forty years. My wife and I enjoy life in the beach community of Capistrano Beach, CA. When I’m not at the office, I can be found surfing the breaks from Cotten’s Point to Church. I also run CIM Records (www.cimrecords.com) which releases my CD’s, “The Roar Of The Approaching Night” and “Songs For An AIDS Free World.” My next release, “The Designs Of A Desperate Heart” is still in production with Rick Dellefield (Cantata Studios) co-producing. As a writer, I co-wrote the live-action screenplay “Ghost Dance” with animation artist/director Stark Howell. I’ve also completed my own screenplay, “A Day of Loss.” In order to avoid a fine, I must say that I am an active member and past president of the Rotary Club of San Juan Capistrano, CA. Service Above Self.

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  • Chris,

    One chapter closes and another begins, great blog. Another bitter sweet moment in the life of a parent. Thanks for sharing your journey and some insight on the path that led to this empty room in your house. Being a father of three, two in high school and one in grade school I know how quickly the time goes and how before you know it they are spreading their wings. Great job Chris, I’m sure there are some parents of some 35 year old who lives at home that want your secret.

    • Chuck,

      You’re time for Faith leaving home is coming sooner than you might want it to. You’ll use the lessons learned from her departure to soften the blow for Christian and Cameron. But trust me, when Cam goes off to college or some great surfing adventure, you’ll drink fully from the cup of parenting fulfilled. And you’ll love your children more deeply than you know right now. Peace Aways!

  • Kim Stacey

    Loved this post! I’m 58, and still have one son at home – but my oldest moved out five years ago, maybe six! I remember how hard that day was. Granted, I was excited at getting his bedroom for my office space, but as I swept the floor, I cried, and cried, and cried. Such a bittersweet mixture of emotions. Pride, joy, love – deep, deep, love for this wonderful young man – all colored by the fear of loneliness.

    But, guess what? There’s no loneliness. I talk to him frequently, and he is very much a part of my life. I’ve watched him grow into strong adulthood – and interestingly enough, my younger son has watched his brother too. And, savvy kid that he is, he realizes that – for now – he’s better off at home. Both young men are demonstrating themselves to be “smart cookies” in that they know what’s best for themselves. And that’s the crux of good parenting, I think, so I can pat myself on the back, and enjoy the quiet spaces in my life.

    Thanks, Chris, for a thoughtful, well-written post. And, may I say, the title of your screenplay is thought-provoking! Wish I could get my hands on it, to enjoy another “good read”!

    • Kim,

      Thank you for your kind words. You are so right regarding the absence of loneliness. My wife and I feel excitement and pride in the place of loneliness. We truly love hearing from Lauren that all is well. The conversations have evolved from a “question and answer” exercise to a true dialogue between parents and a young adult. I feel that we all appreciate each other more today than even six weeks ago. And we do like having the quiet space that Lauren left behind. Peace Always!

  • Jeff Turner

    Chris,

    What a poignant writing this is. I felt my own emotion rise up within me as my own memories of a room suddenly and irreversably changed echoed the haunting images that still echo of a little girl that changed in-perceptively each day and all at once. “The End”. We used to see it at the end of movies. But it is never so stark than when we father’s enter that room when the last sweet possession is gone. Where did the time go? How did we get here? I still mourn the end of my son’s and daughter’s childhood.

    Fr. Richard Rohr once said “Freedom is the gift that LOVE gives.” He was speaking of the freedom God has given us to choose in life any path we desire. Without this freedom, the freedom to choose to love or not to, love itself would be meaningless and empty. It would be a command to obey and there would be no contrast to give it definition or context. It is freedom to fail or succeed. Your action is like that of God’s who loves us at all times because He can do nothing else. The Apostle John says “God is Love”. I hope that I too can be that kind of father to my children, now both adults, that can give them the freedom that love gives.

    I love you brother!

    Jeff

    • So true. Don’t you love seeing your love reflected in the character of your adult children. We see the obvious physical similarities, but also the confidence, boldness, humor, smiles, laugh etc. God calls us to love. By loving, we bring ourselves closer to God. By loving our children, we bring them closer to God. Peace Always!

  • Sharon Watkins

    Such an insightful and heartwarming blog! I think that any parent who experiences the “caboose” of the “children train” moving out and on with their life can relate. I know I can. It is a big adjustment for a Mother, but is was interesting to read about this time of life from a Father’s perspective. Once a Daddy’s Girl – always a Daddy’s Girl! She is a lucky girl to have a Father that raised her to be independent, confident, respectful and full of love. Good job Chris…

    • It’s funny that you use the “train” analogy. Liz and I were sharing our feelings and perspectives with some friends and my wife said about Lauren’s moving out: “This was a train running full steam ahead. Get out of the way or get run over by something that can’t be stopped.” I believe as parents we have to be keenly aware when “the train needs to leave the station.” My youngest isn’t only the train, she’s also the engineer, conductor and passenger. Peace Always!

  • Kasey

    Love you even more Chris..

    Miss breakfast and many things with you… XOXOXO

    • …but not the children experience. You are awesome, missed and greatly loved. See you soon!! Peace Always!

  • Chris –

    This is great information for us new parents in the world. I can only imagine the emotions you are going through, happiness, heartache, & new freedoms. You have done a great job of raising your girls, this post shows your care & love for them. You get to start a new chapter in your life with Liz, so enjoy the new season and keep smiling. Hopefully they never move back!

    • Hopefully nothing! With my daughters, we gave them a “no return” policy to consider before they moved out on their own. It was scary for both Liz and I as parents and for Alexis and Lauren as the departing daughters. My thought is that empowerment trumps enabling; permanent movement forward trumps the “yo-yo” effect and confident support trumps misplaced doubt. But with that being said, cherish the moments when your son clings to you, not wanting to land in someone else’s arms. There will be a time in his future when he will long to cling to another. Always let his crying face see your magnificent smile because seeing your smile will teach him how to smile. And always love him. Always…because that’s what we as parents have chosen to do. Peace Always!

  • Anne Collins

    Very touching post, Chris. I can vouch for the fact that they may be out of the house, but we never quit being “Dad” or “Mom” and we never quite give up the license to worry, whether it is needed or not. It’s just part of growing up and growing out process. As Father’s Day approaches, it was wonderful to see fatherhood through your eyes.

    • Out of the house but never out of the heart. I worry for my daughter’s safety, but I worry in the quiet of my heart. I celebrate their successes in loud, bold songs of praise. I feed them today, but not every day. I offer advise, but it is given with a figurative “return to sender SASE.” We are always Moms and Dads. As parents, that’s our knowledge. That’s our joy! Peace Always!

  • Lori Bristol

    Chris,

    You are such a wonderful man and your girls are lucky to have you!
    Losing my father so young I am left to wonder what this moment may have felt like for both of us.
    I can only hope that he would have had your same sentimental and loving heart.

    It is an honor to call you my friend.

    Love you,
    Lori

    • I can’t imagine my daughters losing me to death or distance. Before Alexis was born, I read somewhere that shared this: When a father/daughter relationship is healthy, it is the most magical relationship the world will ever know. Liz lost her father when she was thirteen years old. She misses the lost history of their unknown life’s experiences; but her father’s love for her was so deep and defining, that even after only thirteen years, that love shaped her life life more powerfully than she had ever expected. My mother lost her father tragically when she was seven. She too lived her life defined by the experience. Your loss was exactly that…a loss. But knowing you, beauty of the heart blossomed in your garden, even though your “gardener” left too soon. Peace Always!

  • Carrie Bayer

    Chris, though I am not an Empty Nester nor will I ever be, I love learning your perspective on your daughter spreading her wings and flying away. Our chats on this subject over the years have been heartfelt & it’s amazing that the time has arrived. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal moment of your life! XOXO Carrie

    • Yeah, but you have all of those reptiles and pets. You are far braver than I because I know how many of those critters you have and how much they mean to you. Loving and missing is loving and missing; regardless of the species. Peace Always!

  • Lori Bristol

    You make me smile. 🙂

  • Betty F

    Wow, I have experience all those feelings that everyone has expressed. With three children leaving the nest, all at yound ages, compare to today, when so many children live at home far longer than it used to be. Today I am somewhat feeling those emotions again but, only after four days of having my granddaughter with me as she recovers from major surgery. She says she is ready to go back to her apartment. I’m happy she is well enough to do that. She has had so many prayers lifted up for her. I put her in God’s hands and pray for her healing.

    • Lori Bristol

      That’s because you are driving your granddaughter crazy Mama B!!!! Lol!!
      Love you!!!!

    • Betty, your journey with your granddaughter takes you to a deeper place where love not only lives, but participates in the healing process that is so needed. To experience the gift of caring for someone else in a time of need is a gift given out of love and trust and you received that wonderful gift. I pray that I am worthy of that special trust and when I am called to care for my grandchild, I hope that my heart is as big as yours. Peace Always!

  • Maria Fernandez

    Chris,
    Such a beautiful Blog! I’m gonna be selfish in saying this but: I’m not looking forward to reaching that chapter in my life. I love that little girl who runs around my house, painting walls, making messes, making crazy noises and calling about for “mamma” I can only imagine how difficult this must be. Thank you for sharing your heart with the world. Be blessed for that my friend! anywaaaaaaaaaaaas!!!

    Maria

    • You are so right wanting to keep the little wonder of your life home forever. I will always say that I wish I could’ve frozen my daughters at 9 years old. It was the “perfect” age for me as a father. Selfish? Yes. But as the years came and went, my selfish love evolved into a selfless love. I knew that one day, by babies would be gone and I had to not only prepare them for the separation, but I had to prepare myself for the separation. Selfless love. That is what defines a strong, loving parent. But in the mean time, celebrate the business of your daughter’s young life. And when she puts her painted handprint on your most beautiful and favorite wall, cover your hand with paint and put your handprint right next to hers.

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Christopher . . . thank you, thank you!
    Your love and tenderness jumps from the page. I can see the room, and I can remember that feeling as if it was yesterday. I’ve watched 4 kids move out, struggle, and move back in. As a mom, I couldn’t help but want to support them. I honor your strength, your character, your love and your ability to have deep conversations about life and all that it hands us! You are a testament, Chris, to great parenting. I now cherish the memories and celebrate each of my children’s successes as they happen. 25 Years of Parenting . . . an you get joy of saying . . JOB WELL DONE! Thank you Chris!

    • Adult children are treated as equals but our love for them is unequaled. And you did it four times!!! You are a gem for the ages. Peace Always!

  • Diana Williams

    Great post Chris!!

    • Thank you. You and Randy blazed the trail. Luckily, you get to sneak away to Havasu!!!!

  • Amy

    She turned out so well because of the amazing parent and role model you are Chris. I know I will be there someday hopefully not too soon but I can only hope that I have done as good of a job preparing my girls for their new journey. You are an inspiration!

  • Kari Leslie

    Christopher,
    Thank you for your wise words. It is so amazing for me to listen to you talk about your girls, and hear the love and peace you have in your voice. Tears fill my eyes as I read this and all the responses from your readers. My own father walked away from his children and 5 grandchildren over 15 years ago. I listen to your words and it causes such a deep pain in my chest. How could a father give that up? You are a man among men. I am so thankful for you, your experiences and your friendship. Peace to you my friend, and the joy of knowing you have made a mark not only on your daughters, but other “girls” in your life who are blessed to know you.

    Karilyn

  • Shayna Mallik

    Chris,
    Wow what an amazing post! You are a great father and your daughter will succeed because she has you and your wife supporting her in her decisions.

    Thank you for sharing the journey,
    Shayna