My family stood there together for the last time in that form. Next to a rented car in a town 400 miles from home, the inevitability of life-changing progress was at hand. I had loved the 18 years that led us there. I stood seeking the right words as her eyes looked up at me waiting. “Make smart decisions,” I said. “I’m so proud of you.” Though my exterior maintained the strength she needed, my heart wanted never to release her from my protection. But I had to let go. College and the future had arrived.
1. We’re getting older.
I recently turned 50. I’m not exactly ecstatic about that, but the date came regardless. Various ages bring different perks and challenges. I now can get discount hotel rates, but I also must consider sugar and salt as adversaries. In my marriage, we must begin transitioning to an empty nest. How will we coexist and thrive after children? Aging scares many men. They tend to cling to the past and that can cause serious issues. Don’t be the guy stuck 10 or 20 years behind reality. Embrace your age and the season you are in and make the most of it.
2. Our children grow up.
This perhaps has been my biggest stumbling block as a dad. I’ve enjoyed each stage of parenting so much that I get depressed when a new stage starts. My youngest daughter, who is nearly 18, cannot stand that I still want her to be the 10-year-old who followed my every footstep. She needs me to accept the current her. I need to give her the independence her age needs, whether it’s in how she dresses, how I speak to her, how much I trust her, or whether I give her the space to pursue her own dreams.
3. Marriages and relationships evolve.
Many couples cite “we just drifted apart” as the reason for their divorce. But why did they drift apart? The answer a majority of the time is that people change. If you want to avoid drifting apart, start by facing physical, emotional, and philosophical changes together. For instance, my pastor married a woman who is a vibrant, intelligent go-getter. Eventually, she endured physical hardship and is now bound to a wheelchair. Her physical challenge is also his. Circumstances changed but they evolved with them—together.