QUESTION: We hear so much about mothers being depressed and unable to accept the empty nest when the kids leave home. In our family, however, it was Dad who took it hard. He went into a tailspin for more than a month. Is this unusual?DR. DOBSON: No, it happens very commonly. In a recent study, 189 parents of college freshmen were asked to report their feelings when their son or daughter left home. Surprisingly, the fathers took it harder than the mothers.
That resistance to the empty nest was the theme of the movie, "Father of the Bride," which was a hilarious and touching tribute to the love of a father for his daughter. When George, the dad, sat across from his daughter at the dinner table and learned that she was engaged, he took the news hard. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had to clear his vision when he saw his daughter as a baby girl, and then as a ten-year-old tomboy, and finally as a beautiful young woman of eighteen. His little girl had grown up so quickly and now she was leaving home. He would never again be the main man in the life of his precious daughter and there was grieving to be done.
Why do men sometimes take the empty nest so hard? One of the chief explanations is regret. They have been so busy - working so hard - that they let the years slip by almost unnoticed. Then suddenly they realize it is too late to build a relationship with the child who is leaving home forever.
For those of you who still have children or teenagers at home, take a moment regularly to enjoy your remaining time together. Those days will be gone in the blink of an eye.
QUESTION: I'm having the hardest time trying to teach my boys about honesty and truthfulness. I talk and talk to them and it just doesn't seem to do much good. What would you advise?
DR. DOBSON: Someone said, "I'd rather see a sermon than hear one." There is truth to this statement. Children may not remember what you say, but they are usually impacted for life by what you do. Consider the task of teaching your boys to be honest, for example. Yes, you should teach what the Scripture says about truthfulness, but you should also look for opportunities to live according to that standard of righteousness.
I'm reminded of something that happened several years ago in the state of Georgia, when the Bulldogs of Rockdale County High School overcame a big deficit to win the state basketball championship. Coach Cleveland Stroud couldn't have been more proud of his team. But then a few days later, while watching the game films of the playoffs, he noticed that there was an ineligible player on the court for forty-five seconds during one of the games. He called the Georgia High School Association and reported the violation, costing the school the title and the trophy.
When asked about it at a press conference, Coach Stroud said, "Some people have said that we should have kept quiet about it. That it was just forty-five seconds, and that the player wasn't really an impact player. But you gotta do what's honest and right. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games. They don't ever forget what you're made out of."
You can be certain that every member of the Bulldogs' team will remember the character of Coach Stroud. A letter to the editor of the local newspaper summed it up well. "We have scandals in Washington and cheating on Wall Street. Thank goodness we live in Rockdale County, where honor and integrity are alive and being practiced." Your boys and girls need to see you doing what is right, even when it is inconvenient to do so.
QUESTION: Did either of your children experience night terrors?
DR. DOBSON: No, but our daughter once had a very unusual nightmare. When she was 4 years old, she woke up screaming at about midnight. When I came to her bed she told me excitedly that the wall was about to collapse on her.
"It's falling. It's falling, Daddy! The wall is falling," she screamed.
She was obviously very frightened by the dream. I took her hand and said, "Danae, feel that wall. It has been there a long time. It isn't going to fall. You are ok. Now go back to sleep."
As she settled down in the covers, I went back to bed and was quickly asleep again. But six hours later, a powerful earthquake rattled Los Angeles and shook my wife and me right out of bed. I rushed to Danae's room to bundle her up and get her out of the way of that wall, which was jumping and shaking like crazy.
Did our 4-year-old have some kind of forewarning of the earthquake in the midnight hours? I don't know, but I'll tell you this: I made up my mind that day to believe her the next time she told me the wall was going to fall.