Recently my husband and I have become empty nesters! We love our children and love being parents, but raising them has been exhausting. We’ve been looking forward to the “empty nest” phase for a long time and we are not disappointed. However, we have both been surprised at the unique perspective this phase of life has given us. We find ourselves constantly appreciating children as human beings rather than something on our “to do” list.
We are enamored by a boy who can make a toy out of anything or a little girl who can create an entire town out of a few dolls and a doll house. We are always amused by the innocent confidence children exude when they say exactly what is on their (and usually everyone else’s) minds without an ounce of embarrassment. We are also so proud of the girl who can find a reason to wake up and keep going after the death of her father or the boy who is able to tell a story about his brother’s struggle with severe depression.
The doldrums of parenthood limited our ability to appreciate our children as human beings. Our agenda of raising responsible adults also inhibited us from appreciating the struggles they faced as human beings in childhood.
My heart broke recently for a little girl who screamed, “I don’t want to go home. I like it here because you appreciate me.” This child’s cry for appreciation was worded wisely, but I hear and observe children begging for appreciation in a variety of ways.
Toddler’s scream, “Look at me!”, young children repeatedly ask for help and then refuse to accept it, older children ask for time, pre-teens complain endlessly, and teens make stupid attention-seeking decisions.
In the book “Wrapped in Rain” by Charles Martin, there is an endearing character named Momma Ella. She teaches endless lessons, but one came in form of this quote,
“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”
When is the last time you sat back and took the time to truly appreciate your child? Webster’s defines appreciate as “to understand fully”. Do you appreciate the struggle your daughter has with the “mean girl” in her class, or do you just tell her she has to learn to deal with difficult people? Do you appreciate your son’s treacherous navigation of the crowded school hallway with a 50-pound backpack, or do you just tell him to stop complaining? Do you appreciate that your daughter really does need a break from an exhausting week of school work, or do you just give her a bunch of chores?
Do you appreciate your son’s needs to roll on the floor and laugh at a potty joke instead focus on homework?
Please learn from the wisdom of Momma Ella and two empty nesters. Take the time to alleviate your child’s need for love and appreciation. When your daughter is whining about being moved from the front row to the back row, give her the same compassion you would for a friend who missed out on a promotion. When your son is crying about his soccer team’s loss, have the patience you do for your coworker complaining about his college football team’s loss. Go out of your way to give the tiny humans in your life the same love and appreciation you do for the big humans.