Empty Nest Syndrome or Free at Last?

Ron Cantor —  June 14, 2012 — Leave a comment
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Am I lonely? Am I happy? Maybe I’m a little bit of both. This week Elana and I watched as our youngest daughter Danielle graduated from high school here in Israel. We are extremely proud of all our daughters, as they had to overcome cultural and language barriers in order to excel in their studies. They arrived in Israel nine years ago with no Hebrew and an American cultural mentality. But they have overcome! Danielle even received, along with a few others in her class,stoo-dent’ mitzuyenet—the outstanding student—award.

She will enter the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in the fall, just as Yael finishes her two-years of service in the IDF. (Pic: Danielle and her teacher. In Israel, your main teacher stays with you all the way through high school, so graduation is particularly hard for the teachers who have been with these students for three years. They are very close.)

For Elana and I this is a strange period to which I am sure many of you can relate. I am not used to this much quietness! For as long as I can remember my house has been filled with girls—loud girls! The days of fighting over a shirt, crying over a bad hair day or whining over doing chores are rapidly coming to an end. I am not sure if I am happy everyone is maturing and moving along in life or longing for a good brawl over, “Who told you, you could wear that!?”

Don’t get me wrong. My girls are a delight—but they are girls (read emotional!). They are best friends with each other and even as continents have divided them (Sharon spent the last year working in the U.S.), they have grown closer.

As for me, I must confess that I have had the most productive year both in ministry and Hebrew studies, and the main reason is no one is home! (…in addition to God’s amazing power at work in us!) It is quiet and no one is asking me for a ride here or for help with homework.

“You like this, don’t you,” Elana has asked to me on more than one occasion. The truth is I do. I love to write and the quiet nights have afforded me the opportunity. I wrote my first book in ten years! I am far more of an introvert than most people think and I need down time in order to be productive.

Elana on the other hand is definitely going through empty nest syndrome. I wouldn’t be surprised if she shows up at Danielle’s prom, just to spend time with her! (Proms here in Israel, by the way, are quite different from what I experienced growing up. Your date is merely someone who escorts you there, and then you leave him and hang out with your friends.) Elana misses the noise. Anyone who knows my wife knows that she thrives on being with people. She is the people person’s people person—the friendliest human I have ever met. That is one reason why the kids at the school where she teaches have fallen in love with her.

Elana and I were blessed (read terrified) when we discovered just a few weeks after our honeymoon that she was pregnant. By the time we were 28 we had our little female tribe of three.  Now at 47, we are free—at least to some degree. Now my wife can travel with me when I minister and she can minister herself. In Germany, when I asked one women if she enjoyed my seminar, she said, “To be honest, I got more out of the five minutes your wife shared than out of your two hours.” Ouch!

Anyway… these next few years are going to be interesting for our family: Army, College, Work… and dare I say it—eventually marriage and grandkids. And then they will begin where I started with them—up at 2 a.m. feeding a baby, changing a diaper, completely overwhelmed, and wondering if they have what it takes to be a good parent. They do. We all do. It is all part of the cycle of life.

To my daughters: I love you as much as a father can love his girls. You have filled my life with joy. I wish you only the best as your move forward in your life. May God lead you and guide. Oh… can somebody PLEASE empty the dishwasher?!

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