Parents’ Graduation

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in September, 1992, and in that summer we started an Empty Nesters group which meets every year at the lake on the weekend before Labor Day. The seven couples, (now nine,) have now been meeting for 18 years. Our daughter, Kami, and her husband, Mark, now have two children. She continues to keep up with a number of those in the high school graduation group.)

As I quietly walked along the beach, I realized that we were entering a new phase of our lives. My wife, our youngest daughter, and I were entertaining ten beautiful young ladies at the lake. They not only were celebrating high school graduation, but also enjoying each other before departing to college campuses in several states. Little did they know that their lives would never again be like the present, so simple, so well planned, and so innocent. This fall, for the first time, my wife and I graduate to an “empty” nest. Would our lives ever be the same? Had we “passed” as parents? Had we really taught our youngest how to cope with life’s stresses, make decisions, and establish relationships? Would she balance work, play, and education? Was she prepared for serious dating and marriage? Had we given her the secrets of budgeting, car repair, household chores, and solid values? Would she be comfortable in the changing work place and at home? I told myself that we had emphasized different things in the three stages of her life – discipline (from ages 1-6), training (ages 7-12), and communication (ages 13-18). We had tried hard as parents, but the older we became the more unqualified we had felt. Each of our three children had given us insight into the uniqueness of God’s special creation, and we had searched for the right way to parent each one.

So I wandered up the hill from the beach with haunting questions about what our final grade would be as parents. Soon I entered on of the most unusual discussions of my life. I found myself freely asking several of the girls what they perceived as the major objective of parenting. The answers come so easily, “To prepare the kids for life” . . . “To give them direction” . . . “To instill them with knowledge and know when to let go!” . . . “To give them money” . . . “To teach them independence” . . . “Responsibility” . . . “Good Morals” . . . “To listen to them” . . .. “To prepare them to make the world a better place” . . . “To give them happiness” . … “To train kids you can trust” . . . “To give them roots and wings”.

They seemed to know all too well the pressures of parents of today. Most agreed that moms are insecure and afraid of failing, while Dads were labeled as over-protective of their girls and under a lot of pressure to support the family financially. They seemed to want to say, “Mom and Dad, you have passed. You have done your best. With your support I know I will survive whatever this old world has to offer.”

This group of girls was talented, bright, and funny. They had challenged life and won at education, leadership, and activities. In a generation with sagging morals they were setting higher standards. They would persist until they reached each goal. After a couple of days of discussions they had encouraged me, given me new assurances, and simplified parenting for me. The greatest teacher of all time summarized the objective of life in one sentence when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself”.

We can teach our children how to fly, but they will choose where to fly. We are not able to go with them, but we can send the right kind of love along. Maybe parenting isn’t so complicated after all. Bring on the grandkids!

Passing the test— Kent


About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

4 Responses to Parents’ Graduation

  1. Art Kimbrough says:

    Amen Kent. Well said.

  2. Linda Alleman says:

    great article Kent…nice to read it again after all these years

  3. Christy Brown says:

    I needed to read this today! As I read your words…tears are streaming down my face!!! While I am not even close to the empty nest…I needed to hear that as a parent of grade schoolers I am doing the job God calls me to do!!! Thank you for the reminder…sometimes we just lose sight of how simple it can be!!! By the way, you did a great job with Kami…she is a lover of God and it radiates from her daily!!!! Way to go!!!
    Christy Brown

  4. Debbie Priest says:

    Thanks for sharing! That was really good, and I hope to pass it on to others! 🙂
    Btw, I saw Kami for the first time in years at Annie’s wedding… what a wonderful
    treat! She is so beautiful and full of joy!

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