Empty nesting leaves a void

Although I have been an empty nester for several years (not necessarily by choice), I didn?t give it much thought until recently.

As I watched Iowa Wesleyan University students and parents unload SUVs, cars, pickups, horse trailers, etc., it struck me. Some of these parents were becoming empty nesters.

I am certain these parents had mixed feelings as they watched their son/daughter walk into the dorm, formally leaving the nest. There was probably even a tear or two shed. Some may have breathed a sigh of relief before reality struck.

For me, the empty nest isn?t so much that the kids are gone. Yes, I miss them dearly. I miss that groggy response (if one was given) to the rise-and-shine call. I miss the tabletop discussions, watching television or a movie together, watching them get ready and picked up for prom, etc. I even miss their misbehavior (which was very infrequent).

But it goes beyond just my kids.

The house, when the kids were going through the school system, was a center of activity. That meant not only did I get to share life with my kids, but also their friends.

We lived close to the football field, and I remember the friends coming over to get ready for the game. Then, there were the sleepovers, movie nights and other activities.

I had a key to the elementary gymnasium and many a night one of my daughters and I would go over there for a little extra basketball practice. Sometimes, their friends came along.

In the spring and summer, there were plenty games of ?catch? in the yard.

I probably knew my kids? friends better than most parents because I coached all of my daughters? basketball and softball teams for at least four years. Coaching basketball meant a lot of early Saturday morning trips to tournament sites. Not only were tournaments fun, I met many special people ? parents of my daughters? teammates ? through coaching.

Although some of the athletic contests, when my daughters were playing, produced some anxious minutes, it is much different going to a game when you know some of the players.

During the time the kids were playing, I did a lot of sports photography. I also tried to do a little coaching from my vantage point on the baseline. The coaching usually sparked a dirty look in response.

After one game, a parent came up to me and said, ?You like sports so much that you probably would be here even if you weren?t taking pictures.? I nodded in agreement and did continue to follow the teams for another couple of years. However, when the kids I knew graduated, I did, too. You might not even need two hands to count the number of high-school sporting events I?ve gone to in the last five years. I don?t think my love of sports has diminished but the reasons for attending have.

A major reason for my choosing to become so involved in my kids? lives is that my parents attended very few of my activities and it greatly disappointed me. My father worked long hours and my mother did not drive. I think she would have gladly gone to more of my events but didn?t want to go without my dad.

For me, those times being involved in the lives of my children were golden. My only regret is that I didn?t have a stronger realization of what a special time it was while it was happening.

People say that the kids grow up fast. There?s a ton of truth to that.