Monday, October 28, 2019

My Son Left Us!

Michelle and I had anticipated this life-changing event for many years. It finally came upon us on 26th October 2019. That day marked a significant milestone of our lives. 

We woke up to an empty nest!

After 31 years, my son moved into his own home. Our 2 daughters had moved to their marital homes 9 and 4 years earlier. Although we had anticipated this day many years ago, we still felt a little emo when we woke up that morning.

For me, it was not a bad feeling, just a tinge of strangeness. For Michelle, it was tougher - as she missed the 2 girls years earlier when they moved out, she is missing him. She said, "We have been living with him for 31 years and now he is not staying with us anymore." 
But thankfully, all those feelings quickly changed to a sense of success, fulfilment and joy.

Success because all 3 of our children have finally set up their own homes - they have become husband, wife, mothers and yet still remain as son and daughters. Fulfilment because Michelle and I have fufilled one of the major responsibilities of our lives - bringing up our children and releasing them to live their own lives. And finally, joy because we are once again in a couple's private world (两人世界) - we can do more of what we love to do together.

I have heard couples lamenting about having an empty nest. After years of living with the children, they found it tough to deal with living just with each other in an empty nest. With no children to care for anymore, they did not know how to joyfully and maeningfully spend time together. Focusing on the children had somewhat deflected many relationship issues that they were having in their marriage. Children became the glue to their marriage and they labored tirelessly to bring them up, often times neglecting their own needs to love each other.
Now that the children aren't their focus anymore, they get irritated with each other as their flaws became the focus. Frustrations drive many couples to escape each other  by spending as little time at home and with each other as they can. Then the problem execerbates, often ending in what has been appropriately termed, the Empty Nester Divorce. That would be so sad - the couple spent the prime of their lives building the family and bringing up their children, and when the children leave, there find that there is nothing to hold their marriage together anymore.
The good news is that there are many empty nester couples who find deeper love and meaning to their marriage and their lives during this period.

What makes the difference?

I believe that it boils down to preparation. Yes, preparation to enter this inevitable stage of life.

I thank God that He gave Michelle and I the sense, more than 20 years ago, to put in deliberate effort to prepare for that day. When our children were growing up, we were made aware that we are only stewards of these gifts from heaven. They will grow up and they will leave home one day. We agreed then that we would spend as much time as needed to bring them up, yet not foregoing time to build our marriage. I remember that we took time off for ourselves frequently, going for short vacations and having couple dates, as much as we going for family vacations and enjoying family-centric actitivies.

We have had many conversations about "releasing" them when the time came, and to let them build their own nest without our intervention and interference. While we may not be entirely successful in not intervening (parental love transcends time and space ... lol), we have joyfully released them.

Now, what about the empty nest?

Michelle and I choose to term it as our Golden Nest. When we were younger, we had many responsibilties to fulfil - as parents, careers to build and savings to grow. Now, we are, and have been for some years already, blessed with time and financial stability.  These blessings allow us to do what we love doing together. Michelle and I enjoy time with each other, at home, traveling, serving God in various capacities, helping friends and spending regular time with our grandchildren.

More importantly, we enjoy each other. We talk lots. We do lots of fun things together -  ballroom dancing and having Pilates every week. We love to travel together, alone - just the 2 of us so that we can truly spend undisturbed time together.

Michelle and I would not be able to do all this without first building our relationship over the years. We have prepared ourselves way before the nest became empty. We decided to build a Golden Nest instead waiting to receive an empty one. 
We are now excited that we are finally having our very own Golden Nest!

You can too! 
You just need to be decisive, delibrate and prepare by building your marital relationship constantly and you will surely enjoy your very own Golden Nest as you journey towards a Maximum Marriage.
Steven Chan

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